In my last blog, I wrote about how to transform managers into champions of employee recognition by helping them understand why it’s important, sharing seven superpowers and five impacts that appreciation can have. But like anything, this can only happen when it's done ‘right,’ when it’s happening in a way that the superpowers are released in your people and the impacts are felt throughout your organisation.
To help our busy managers understand how to do this, I’ve come up with a simple and easy to remember recognition mantra, a call to action - See it. Say it. Appreciate it! It’s a phrase they can use over and over again to remind them of the three key steps to take when recognising their people to show and deliver what I call the “appreciation feeling.” Here is a high level summary of the three steps that I share in my book (link to book on Amazon):
1. See it – Look for recognition moments everywhere and anywhere
The first part of the mantra is “See it,” as this is where it all begins. In training classes I often say that we all need to put our recognition “glasses” on, thus looking for and seeking out opportunities to recognize our people. This is absolutely critical, for if you don’t first see the moments, then they will be missed, and the appreciation will never happen. Here are three tips to help your managers do this:
Look for recognition in everyone – It’s important to look in all directions to find moments that are recognition-worthy in all of our people. Challenge yourself to look at all of the work being done by your team and all of your people, not missing moments (and people) that may not be as visible.
Get others involved – Another way to capture recognition moments is to get more people involved, adopting what I call a “crowdsourcing” approach to recognition. This is critical to keep in mind so you don’t miss any of those important recognition moments by having your team work together to see and recognise all of the great work and contributions being made.
Challenge your people to take ownership – And finally, something I always say to my employees, is that they need to take some accountability and ownership over recognition moments. This involves making sure that their manager is aware of their contributions, their recognition-worthy moments. This is especially important in the new hybrid working world, when managers may not always be able to see, and thus recognise, them.
2. Say it – Take action and make it happen
The next part of the mantra is “Say it,” which means to say and do something once you see a moment that deserves to be recognized, taking action. Too often I hear managers say that they’re too busy, that they don’t have the time to do it, but as I always say in response, “Can you risk what happens if you don’t do something?” or “Do you have the time to pick up the pieces if the person isn’t recognized and fails to achieve the goals you’ve set for them, or worse, walks out the door?”
There are two components that need to take place in this part of the mantra. Here is a high level summary of them:
Words – The first component has to do with what you say in the words that you use to recognize your people. As I’m sure you’ve seen and felt, words can have a significant impact and power, which is why it’s important to choose them wisely, and get them right. It’s important to not underestimate how difficult it can be for some managers to select the right words, so I always encourage you to take the time to train them on this, giving them the skills to use their words in the most meaningful and effective way.
Actions – The second component has to do with what you say through the actions that you take when you recognize someone. Sometimes it is just in words, in your message, and sometimes it is with some kind of reward. And as with words, getting it right is absolutely critical, for the wrong reward can deliver the wrong meaning and thus the wrong outcome. It’s important to remind your managers not to just throw money, gifts or anything else at their employees as a way to reward recognition efforts without care and thought attached to it. When doing this you could end up with what I refer to as the “cringe-worthy disconnect,” and completely negate the positives derived from recognition.
3. Appreciate it! – Deliver the ultimate appreciation feeling
The last part of the mantra is “Appreciate it!” and is about delivering that appreciation feeling. What I mean by this is that throughout the recognition process it’s important to focus on the end result that you are looking to achieve, which is that of well, appreciation. You want to make sure that all of the steps and actions you take get you to the goal you are trying to achieve, which is your employee genuinely feeling appreciated. If that feeling isn’t met at the end of the day, you haven’t met your objectives in delivering the recognition the right way.
When thinking about this feeling of being appreciated, here are four outcomes that you should be striving for from the person who you’re recognizing:
Feeling valued – Feeling valued through recognition helps us feel good about ourselves, reinforcing a positive sense of self-worth. A survey from the American Psychological Association found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.
Feeling seen – Feeling seen and being noticed by others through recognition makes us feel that we’re important to others. Studies have found that being seen is necessary to feel like we matter and promote mental and emotional wellbeing. Social psychologists Morris Rosenburg and Claire McCullough wrote that feeling noticed is “the most elementary form of mattering.”
Having a sense of meaning – Being recognized delivers a sense of meaning, showing us that the work we are doing is meaningful and that it’s making a difference. The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, said that as human beings we are motivated by a “will to meaning.”
Feeling connected – And finally, recognition can help us feel connected to one another, strengthening bonds and leading to stronger and more meaningful relationships. Studies have shown that social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.
Let me end by explaining the exclamation mark, which you may have noticed was at the end of the words “Appreciate it!” This was done intentionally to leverage the power of an exclamation point, informally known as a bang or a shriek, which is used in a phrase or sentence to create a strong meaning, emphasis or feeling.
This is exactly what you need to encourage your managers to do when they recognize their people, creating that feeling of appreciation that ends with an exclamation point, with that bang! If they think of like this as they recite the mantra to themselves, it will help them move to this outcome, and leverage the positive powers and impacts of recognition.
I hope you've found this mantra helpful. If you'd like to learn more tips and tools for managers regarding recognition and appreciation, I encourage you to read my book titled "See it. Say it. Appreciate it! The Manager's Guide to Employee Recognition."