Give Recognition You Can Be Proud Of

Many years ago, a client decided that he wasn’t investing as much time recognizing his team as he would like. We talked about this concern and discussed ways that he could begin to make regular recognition a part of his team’s culture. One thing he decided to do was give recognition at staff meetings.

The first time he did this, he apparently decided to go around the room and say something positive about each person. When he was done, someone pointed out that he forgot a team member who had called into the meeting virtually.


Apparently their attendance at the meeting hadn’t been expected and he couldn’t come up with something positive to say about the person on the spot.


It’s an extreme example of something I see often: someone deciding that they need to give more recognition to others in work or life and then going to the extreme of over-recognizing in a short period of time. It’s not usually sustainable, and it often doesn’t come across as genuine.

If you want to get better at recognition, here’s what you can do to be proud of what you say:

1. Focus on one person
When I was a kid, I got the “most improved player” award in little league one year (the award always given to the worst performer on any athletic team). It was actually a little embarrassing, since I knew it was the best that could be said about my athletic skills at the time.

It’s not particularly meaningful to say something nice about someone, if something nice is being said about everyone. Someone will inevitably feel slighted since they’ll compare what you said about them to what you said about others.

Instead, chose one person to recognize and invest the preparation time to say something meaningful about their specific contributions. Save the others for another day (a better way to ensure sustainability, too).

2. Tell a story
It’s tempting for all of us to want to say a lot of nice things about someone when we recognize them, but not be very specific. Someone once complained to a colleague of mine that she was so frustrated with her manager because all she ever heard was the phrase “good job” without explanation.

Telling a story about the person that shows them in a positive light is a lot more genuine than “good job” and grabs attention. Not only will you keep the attention of others who hear it, you’ll demonstrate to the recipient that you’ve been really paying attention to their contributions.

3. Say thank you
Once you’ve articulated the story, just say “thank you” to the person. Less is more.

If you take these actions, not only will your recognition be perceived as more genuine, but you’ll have greater success in keeping recognition sustainable in your organization or family.

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