When you want to recognize someone

Recognition has always been a tricky subject. As managers, we may be trained to provide positive feedback and recognize good work wherever we see it. This act can keep people engaged and motivated to strive for more. Umm…it depends on how you do it.

For me personally, recognition is important. I don’t need to be told thank you every day or have my name uttered in a leadership meeting on a frequent basis. Some people do. Some people don’t. Some people shrink from public recognition. As a manager, it is important to know your people and learn what they want and need to be successful.

I am a fan of personality tests. I have taken them all. I know what color I am, what letter or letters describe me, what style I gravitate toward and, therefore, how I like to be recognized.

Whatever instrument is available to you in your organization, take it. Have your team take it. This point is not to put people in boxes, although our society sometimes likes that, but to understand why someone reacts a certain way, how he handles stress, and how he likes to be appreciated.

I once had a team member who would rather not be recognized in public. It embarrassed her. She felt just hearing she did a nice job from me or the department head was enough. I have had other team members who would get so angry when their name didn’t appear in the all-hands meeting PowerPoint presentation.

I have found at least four styles of recognition. There could be more but these four have seemed to cover most people I have managed:

  1. Put my name in lights. By the way, this is okay. These people are usually extroverts and get their energy from others. So, it makes perfect sense that they want this level of celebrity. They need public recognition for a job well done. As this person’s manager, you should find or create these opportunities to keep them engaged.
  2. Let me lead. Some people don’t need all of the accolades, they simply want more responsibility and more leadership roles. Sometimes this means more higher-level projects but sometimes it means you trust me to lead the next effort and you trust me to give me some autonomy to do it.
  3. Show me respect. Somewhat aligned to the above, some people want to be known as the expert. They want everyone’s respect because they are dependable and can get the job done. They want to be the go-to person.
  4. Say thank you. Some who don’t want their name shouted from the rooftops, do want some appreciation in the form of a thank you. You were so helpful. You are so valued. We can’t do this without you. They need validation (most of us do!).

These are not necessarily mutually exclusive either. Someone may want their name in lights and more leadership responsibilities. Some may want to hear thank you and be given respect.

The key is to get to know your people. Honestly, the simplest way to do this is to ask them. Just watch out for the shy ones who may tell you they don’t need anything. If that is what you hear, I tend to go for style #4 as a start.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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