Recognition is the need of all living beings. By an inherent principle, mankind and the animal kingdom respond to recognition with better performance. If you don’t lovingly pat a horse’s back, it will not let you win the race or the buffalo would not yield better, without the accompaniment of gentle slap upon its back. Mankind is no different. They outperform all standards, if their efforts are well recognised. “A man who does not love recognition and praise is not a full man.”
A manager who chooses to publicly acknowledge better than expected performance from his teammates will always appear graceful and composed. Every individual has a choice to be either graceful or vulgar. The manager who is quick to reckon the significance of recognition will always outclass others on the shop floor. How can the process of recognition be introduced? Like many motivational tools, recognition and appreciation can manifest itself in several formats.
Many organisations have their own in-house journals, the purpose of which essentially has to do, with communication and employee engagement. These magazines are also effective tool for recognition of enhanced performance. The performing individuals’ picture can be carried or an interview dealing with how the standards were breached upwards, will serve well the cause of recognition.
Creating a competitive spirit, within the ambit of ‘esprit de corps’, is also a useful mechanism to let the high achievers get the necessary visibility in the organisation. Several good companies have a pronounced policy for sending top performers to training events, seminars, and conferences, both within the country and overseas. As a CEO, I have personally used this technique most for not merely acknowledging good results, but also to ensure still better achievements, through the acquisition of new set of skills and body of recent knowledge. Sending teammates to Ivy League business schools or even multilateral agencies’ conferences has manifold benefits. While there is the gaining of the knowledge input, there is also the advantage of networking with a wide audience that can be the potential market of the future. Such rendezvous help better understanding of multiculturalism, multiracial work environment and a deeper view of different cultural standards. Post training, I always encourage my colleagues to take a day or two off, to do sightseeing, visit the museums, heritage buildings etc, which in the long run in my view, goes towards making him/her a better leader.
The power of verbal acknowledgment cannot be understated. In the corridors or the board room, as managers, never fail to mention by name, the top achievers. A few organisations have well designed recognition process through the distribution of certificates or plaques of achievement. Many in the hotel and tourism industry run quarterly/monthly programs that are structured to recognise quality of service, quality of food etc. Each month, an individual is chosen as “employee of the month”. I have seen colleagues who proudly display their plaques. These plaques serve as perpetual reminder of appreciation, and it is for this specific reason, we find many colleagues adorning their cubicles, cabins or work status with certificates of performance, either on the desk, shelves or the walls. Some entities follow the practice of circularising performance.
Performance recognition isn’t restricted to enhanced sales but it is equally important to choose and honor those who dare to think newer ways of conducting business or else provide sound ideas for better expense control or enhanced revenue streams.
Another unusual and novel methodology of recognition is to give greater flexibility, without compromising on fundamentals and stated principles, to the high achievers. Today, the technology input in our work is only gaining more space and hence the concept of working from home, can be used, as a recognition tool. The employee can be allowed to choose, say two days in a week to work from home. New mothers, who may have been an excellent resource, can be allowed this facility. In fact even male colleagues can be judiciously given this benefit. Flexible office timings in the West and the Orient are gaining much ground. Such policies tend to serve the case of retention of good human resource asset base.
If I may recoin the legal term and say, recognition delayed, is recognition denied. Only the posthumously given Nishan-e-Haider is justified, because it follows an act of unheard-of bravery that is crowned with martyrdom. In the business and corporate world, do not wait to appreciate till the man is upon the bier.
Also, do not delay recognition to coincide with farewell or an annual grand event of staff. Say it now, should be the principle. Recognition does not always have to be in writing. To quote here, the bard William Shakespeare is almost irresistible to this scribe. In, The Winter’s Tale, he writes, “One good deed dying tongueless, slaughters a thousand waiting upon that”. People work hard to receive appreciation and if that remains wanting from the one, who is supposed to give it, can become the most lethal and potent de-motivation. Any colleague can actually leave the organisation that does not believe in granting appreciation. According due praise for great performance is the only way to fill the entity’s reservoirs of motivation. Exceptional bonuses can only last as a motivation till the credit in the bank account gets exhausted. Once used, it fails its purpose. Never, as managers, you should be oblivious of the levels of these reservoirs. It is also a fact that uncalled for praise can only bring about a culture of nepotism. Do not recognise any team out of season, nor be tactless about how to deliver it. The act of recording appreciation has to be with poise and grace, not vulgarly pompous or laced with crudity.
Praise, appreciation, and recognition shouldn't be in oversupply. It must retain rarity as a feature to be truly a motivator. None of these should be available at the drop of the hat, for too much. Too frequently given, it loses its charm and lustre. Dropping praise at each step is like playing the harp to a donkey. Neither should recognition be given upon demand. It is no bank instrument that is payable upon demand, it has to be voluntary. Look at the trait of reward, award, praise, appreciation, and recognition as an economic and market force. The more it is, the less will be its value. It is the scarcity that creates true value.
While unwarranted praise is loathsome, it is equally true that when praise is required, no one should be niggardly. Praise, when heaped upon undeservedly is more of a mockery and a perfect case of true corporate humor. In contrast, deceitful praise is more difficult for the recipient to handle, than to receive none. I am witness to managers who lavishly praise in public with as arsenic touch of sarcasm and taunt and behind the back of these very colleagues, the worst form of backbiting takes place. Avoid and abhor such attitude, if true leadership quality, is a claim you make for yourself. A mediocre manager will acknowledge the effort of colleagues with great loads of moderation, for we all know that, ‘envy bestrides praise’.
We live in a society where only the dead are praised, but isn’t that attitude written on every single page of human history. Let death be not the reason for appreciation of good work by colleagues. We must know, all, regardless of age, position, rank, office or title held, secretly nurture with passion, the desire to be recognised by all and sundry; and that too, far and wide. This simplest form of aspiration can be satisfied in the lifetime of at least your direct reports.
Expressing words of appreciation is expensive only for those supervisors who are shunned of the trait to offer praise for any good work undertaken by the teammates. In fact they loathsomely find lack of conveyance of appreciation as profitable. An enlightened leader/manager would know that expressing gratitude is the ultimate manifestation of courtesy and good countenance.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist