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Recognition is More Valuable than Money

Spark Business Consultation

by George Virtue, CPA, CA

Leadership Lesson #10: Understand that Recognition is More Valuable than Money

Okay, money is important. I have heard it said that money can’t buy happiness but it can buy things that make you happy! So first, ensure that you pay your employees fairly. After that, forget trying to motivate them with more money and focus instead on giving timely, honest, specific recognition.

Two good reads helped me to understand the importance of recognition. Drive by Daniel Pink and Gung Ho! by Blanchard and Bowles make it clear that our people want to do meaningful important work and they want to be recognized for the contribution they make to the organization. So, if we provide recognition that demonstrates the value of their contribution and the importance of their work, we get a double win.

Sounds easy, right? Recognition does not cost anything (or at least very little) and it can be done anytime and anywhere. And yet, it is a tremendously under-utilized leadership tool in most businesses and organizations. I don’t have to look too far to understand why this is the case – because I was not good at this for much of my career. My problem is that I have high expectations of people and I reward great work by assigning more challenging work!  I also did not want to “water down” the value of my praise by giving it too often or for small accomplishments. And finally, I did not think it made sense to recognize someone for doing what was expected of them. Goodness – I would have been spending all my time giving recognition and none of it working!  Does any of this sound familiar?  I am sure that we all have colleagues who think this way and there may be a bit of the “old me” thinking in you. Well the good news is that becoming great at recognition is not hard to do.

First off, let’s change our thinking a bit. Providing recognition does not take away from your job as a leader – it IS your job as a leader. People who feel motivated by recognition are more productive. Make a commitment to recognize three people every day. Tell them that you appreciate what they do and why it is important. Tell them how their contribution contributes to the goals of the organization. If you need a reminder to do this, put three coins in your left pocket and move them to your right pocket each time. At the end of the day you know that you have met your goal if you have three coins in your right pocket.

Next, “catch them doing something right” rather than only talking to the them when they do something wrong. Recognize them when they are “just” doing their job. Let them know when they are doing something that aligns with the corporate culture and vision. When people are recognized for positive behavior they are motivated to keep doing it.

Here’s another tip: the best recognition is personal, specific and timely. Send an email or better yet a handwritten note. One of my team members has a note that I gave her 15 years ago pinned to her board in her office. (Yikes -  I guess I need to do this more often!)

Finally, think about this. Have you ever had a team member complain about getting too much recognition? I certainly have not. Never let an opportunity for recognition go by – even if it is simply a sincere thank you.

Thanks for reading this and for increasing the recognition that you give to others. It is important to me that you develop as a leader because this allows me to pursue my passion helping others. I know that you will do a great job when you put your mind to it. Thanks again! (See how easy that was?)


Click here to read Leadership Lesson #9: Communicate Often and With Clarity
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #8: Learn to Listen
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #7: Delegate - But Do it Right 
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #6: Understand the Power of Conflict 
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #5: Build a Real Team 
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #4: Choose Your Culture 
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #3: Figure Out Where You Want to Go and How You Will Get There 
Click here to read Leadership Lesson #2: Make Sure that Everyone (Including You) is Doing the Right Job 
Click here
 to read Leadership Lesson #1: Get the Right People on the Team

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