One of the primary roles a leader plays is in inspiring and motivating team members. Some of the intangible things that motivate team members are:
a. Feeling good about what they do (job satisfaction)
b. Learning new skills, gaining experience and job knowledge
c. Being an effective contributor in team/company success
d. Gaining the respect of peers in their team
e. Getting recognition for their efforts and performances
While tangible benefits such as company perks, compensation, stock options, etc. are one set of motivators, the above intangibles play a significant role in motivating team members.
Recognizing good performance by team members is a very important and effective way to motivate team members.
I remember an occasion when I was handed the microphone and had to speak extempore on my team’s achievement. Not being prepared, I recognized those people who I could see in front of me. And I missed a key person’s name. The next day I privately acknowledged his contribution in person, after the fact. But the damage had been done. In front of the company crowd, microphone in hand, I, the leader, had left out the person for praise, and totally ignored him. This was more of “wreckognition”.
A few weeks later, I came to realize that I had lost the loyalty of this person. I had caused irreparable damage by not being prepared for that important speech.
I learnt an important lesson. When you are the leader or captain and responsible for leading a team of people, you are the cynosure of multiple sets of eyes. Team members take the behavior, words and actions of a leader seriously. Lack of preparation can neither be an excuse nor can it fix the damage.
The other option would be to simply stay put and not speak, when you are unprepared. But that would be foregoing a huge opportunity to recognize your team and make a positive impact.
To avoid situations like the one I described above, I put together some aspects of recognition that I am now trying to building into my value system. These are:
1. Sincere. You’d be surprised at how quickly people can spot a phony compliment. No compliment is much better than a false one. Make it sincere. Even if you are sending an email out to a project team, let them know how much this means to the organization. Bring out some instances where the team overcame major obstacles
2. Personal. You should understand your team members well enough to know who likes to be recognized in public and who would prefer a handshake in private. While emails and phone calls can do the job, I believe that a good hand-written note, and even better an in-person visit work wonders.
3. Timely. Please do not wait and wait. If you feel that someone has done a good job, go ahead and let her know. Delaying recognition is almost like denying it, and then it becomes counter-productive.
4. Appropriate. Recognition should be appropriate to the task performed. Recognize people for excellence, shouldering higher volume of work or extraordinary performances. If you start doling out kudos for routine work and ordinary performances, you will not only lower the standards, but also dilute the effect of recognition. Quality over quantity should be the guide. It is up to you, the leader to set the bar. Let the team know that recognition does not come easily as well. That way, when it appears, the value is much higher and the corresponding degree of motivation will also be higher.
5. Selective. Single out one or a few team members for praise. Take this opportunity to distinguish the stellar performer(s) and bring out the excellence that you are talking about. This is where your selection should be unbiased and performance-oriented. You may have to have personal discussions with others who were not recognized and explain why. This is an important part of the process and will serve to lay down the bar for performance. The easy way out would be to talk about the team in general, but then that would dilute the efforts of the stellar performers.
I’d like to hear your thoughts, experiences or stories on recognition. Please use the comments section below.