Creative Recognition

  Hort Snacks - December 2017
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 Motivational speaker and time management guru Hyrum Smith said “You have four powerful, driving human needs. Whether you think you’ve got them or not, you’ve got them. Psychologists have done all kinds of studies. They all say we have these four powerful human needs: 1) To live. 2) To love and be loved. 3) To feel important, to have value and significance. 4) To have variety.

Recognition is defined as “acknowledgment of something's existence, validity, or legality”. It is also “appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability”. However you define it, recognition is a big part of our modern society. It has been postulated that humans of different generations (e.g. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials) require different levels of recognition to feel fulfilled, validated, valued and/or motivated in life. Some suggest that there may even be variations between different individuals, with some preferring THIS type of recognition, whereas others prefer THAT form of recognition. Some prefer verbal recognition, some a physical interaction (like a pat on the back), while others prefer some sort of object (plaque, gift, cash). Some would rather be coated in honey and staked out on an anthill before being the recipient of public (or even private) recognition.

American author Ryan Holiday put it nicely when he said “We all have goals: We want to matter. We want to be important. We want to have freedom and power to pursue our creative work. We want respect from our peers and recognition for our accomplishments. Not out of vanity or selfishness, but of an earnest desire to fulfill our personal potential.

Regardless of where you fall in your personal preferences, it is important to recognize (sorry, no pun intended) that recognition is important, if not to us, then to those around us. In my experience, recognition (subtle and sincere) is one of those things that tips people towards engagement, wanting to come to work day after day and lifts us up and carries us over the potholes and bumps of our day-to-day existence.

Recognition is extremely personal. Fact – Everyone is different in how they like to be recognized. This is both awful and awesome at the same time. Why is it awful? What resonates with one person won’t necessarily work for another. So, one size WON’T fit all. Why is it awesome? Because you have license to be creative in how you recognize others. You have the freedom (and requirement) to find out what peoples’ preferences are, and then act on it.

If there isn’t a set formula for recognition, please allow me to offer some suggestions that I think should be a part of every recognition activity, regardless of your (or their) preference. They are based on my own preferences and experiences, if that helps establish the bias.

1. Sincere / Genuine – People can smell insincerity from a mile away. Even if all of the words are correct and even if you are the smoothest talking slick out there, people will know that something is off and it will taint the recognition you are giving. If you are going to give recognition, make sure that you mean it. So, even if you are awkward and silly and you stumble over the delivery, people will see that you truly feel that they deserve the recognition and the value of it will increase accordingly.

Here’s an example. Have you ever had a little kid smile up at you after you’ve done something for them, and in their little voice, say “Thanks. You great”? Or you get a sticky hug, accompanied by a limp, wilted dandelion flower? No matter the delivery, they meant it and you knew it. Try and capture that childlike sincerity.

2. Timely – When someone deserves recognition, give it right away. Fresher is better. Don’t wait until the “right time”. It might be forgotten, or diminished in the delaying. Try to give recognition for the little meaningful things as close to the event as possible. For bigger, more cumulative recognition, maybe a more formal time is appropriate, but be careful

3. Specific – Be sure to note what it is that the person did and why it mattered. If you were hoping that good behavior will be repeated, this is the way to increase the chances of that happening. Saying “You are appreciated” is less meaningful than saying “I really appreciate how you helped me with #### the other day. I was struggling and you really came through for me. Thanks.”

4. Keep it focused on the recipient – Sometimes, it seems like the people GIVING recognition seem to want us to focus more on them (and the fact that they are giving recognition) than on the recipient of the recognition. Don’t get caught in the spotlight.

Be creative in recognizing others. Giving recognition doesn’t hurt anyone (I think) but not giving recognition is a wasted opportunity. So, get out there and do it. And, if you find yourself the recipient of recognition (and it doesn’t fit all that well with your personal preferences and style) bite your tongue, smile and accept it. And cherish it. You are special.

Don't work for recognition, but do work worthy of recognition.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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This information published to the web on November 29, 2017.