Show Me, Don't Tell Me, How to Recognize
Posted by Roy Saunderson on Fri, Sep 11, 2020 @ 07:57 PM

Sometimes organizations think all they have to do is tell their leaders to go out there and say, “thank you,” more often, and that’s all you have to do to improve recognition. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Successful recognition is not just in the words used, but the delivery of those words, and many people don’t know how to recognize – they need to be shown.

Like a great movie, great recognition needs a few things – a good script, the perfect setting/location and even the right cast (fellow employees), to create a memorable moment. How can you educate everyone to do a better job of delivering recognition versus telling them to do it?

First, seek out the exemplary recognizers already working around you.

Find the ambassadors or champions of recognition in your organization. You know them; they are the people who seem to be born naturals at giving recognition. They are excellent recognizers, and they might have even acknowledged you along the way. These employees aren’t always in leadership positions, although they are leaders in their own right.

Characteristics of great recognizers include being warm and outgoing; they often smile and engage the recipient when positive behaviors and actions happen. You admire exemplary recognizers for their ability to convey their appreciation, and it’s an honor to be recognized by them. They notice things. They’re active observers of others and always find the good in others. 

These individuals start meetings with sincere recognition for what a team member did that day or during the week that made a difference to someone. They have a great habit of stopping an employee in the hall to express appreciation for helping another colleague and sharing how their behaviors impacted a colleague. Recognition is part of their daily routine.

Second, interview your ambassadors of recognition.

Find out what they do and how they do it. Learn what makes them tick in their thinking and actions to make them great recognizers. Don’t forget to document their best practices to support educational initiatives for the larger organization.

Consider the following questions to ask your recognition role models: 

  • What are the small habits that exemplary recognizers do consistently that make them great at giving recognition?
  • How do they think differently about valuing people and their contributions than others?
  • How has recognition giving become more a way of life for them than following a direction from above? 

Third, show what great recognition moments look like.

It’s no secret; great recognition must include concrete and specific details about what the person did that merited recognition. It should be delivered with excitement and conveyed genuinely, and the recipient should have a clear picture of why they are being recognized.

Pre-COVID, it was easier to provide an excellent recognition moment defined above - most employees were in person (office, warehouse, facility, etc.), pulling in coworkers and interaction on the fly was effortless. Today, not so much!

This is an opportunity for organizations to show what great recognition looks like in our new work normal. The reality leaders face - most workers are remote, or there is distanced in-person interaction.

Pull in your recognition ambassadors (champions) to show others how recognition is done right. Cover the tools and technology that leaders need to rely on for creating recognition moments in a new way. Coordinate a virtual call (record it for future training!) to share the best practices and have your ambassadors re-enact mock recognition moments to show the audience how to bring the recognition moment to life in the virtual world.

When using the show, don't tell, mindset, you help others see the desired behaviors in action. Let the words and actions you use to recognize others allow the recipient to feel passionate and happy about the exceptional work they do, so they continue to repeat it!

Author's Note: This post originally appeared on Roy’s website in July and has been updated with additional insights. 

Topics: employee recognition

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