Of all the tools and tricks in the leaders' tool bag, none is quite as powerful as the importance of recognition, and yet there still seems to be a large number of leaders and managers who seem reluctant to give praise and feedback to their teams.
When I ask them why they are so stingy with the positive feedback the answers I usually receive are: they were just doing their job; that's what they get paid for; I am saving the recognition for when they do some outstanding work, or well no-one ever gives me feedback.
Now, it's not like there is a limited supply of recognition, or that it's costly and we have budget restrictions. No recognition is free and there is a never-ending supply that would allow us to use it each and every day.
I am not suggesting that we give it away freely, saying well done to everyone that crosses our path irrespective of the quality of work that is performed. But I do believe that even if people are just doing the work that we pay them for, and they do it well, then give them the praise, the positive feedback.
According to Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, one of the basic human needs is Esteem. Which means that most people who comes to work, they don't just come for the money, they also want to go home feeling that they did a good job, that they added value, which gives them a feeling of self-worth.
So when we recognize people we are feeding that need, making people feel good about themselves and increasing their morale, which then impacts productivity.
Remember the saying what gets recognized gets repeated so when we recognize people we remind them of what a good job looks like, and given people crave recognition, then we are encouraging them to do it again.
But our recognition needs to be sincere, timely and specific. If our recognition is insincere then people will just ignore it, even worse it can have the opposite effect to what we would desire and can actually be demotivating.
We want to provide timely feedback so people get the benefit at the moment that they did they good work, and it needs to be specific so that people know exactly what it is that we liked so that they can repeat that.
Just because we never receive positive feedback doesn't mean that we should hold back, in fact, I think this is the worst excuse. We're actually holding it back because we feel bitter about not receiving it ourselves, which means that we know the benefit of feedback and also the impact of not receiving it.
As leaders, we should look to build a culture of recognition, create an environment where good work is appreciated as this will increase morale and create a happy team, and happy teams are productive teams.
Another benefit of a culture of recognition is that, once we have started to provide positive feedback, it also allows us to provide corrective feedback.
If we haven't offered any positive feedback and go straight for corrective feedback, then this is just seen as critical and has a detrimental effect on morale.
But if we have already provided some positive feedback, then it makes our team more accepting of corrective feedback, they are much more prepared to listen because they know that they will be praised for the improvements that will come from the corrections.
Leadership is all about the people, and to get the best out of our people we need to understand their basic needs, and recognition is one of these needs and that is what makes it such a powerful tool.
Use it correctly and it will help you create a successful organization one which is continually looking for improvement.