The Right Way to Recognize Your Team Members

Your words can weigh a thousand pounds — for positive or for negative. 

If you were to criticize a member of your team, coming from you (the CEO) that weighs a thousand pounds. That person could be thinking about that for months. 

On the other side, if you were to recognize someone for something that they did in your firm, they can think about that for months as well, and it can improve their performance as a result. So why would you not want to recognize them for a performance that goes beyond expectations? 

Now, there is a point where I would draw the line on this. To me, recognition makes the most sense when someone goes above and beyond, not simply when they do their job. 

In a lot of organizations, people are given recognition for doing the thing that they’re supposed to be doing in the first place. For example, most organizations have salespeople — people whose title says salesperson. Their job is to sell, so when they sell, of course you could say good job, but we don’t need to congratulate them on that. That salesperson selling something is the exact reason why that organization hired them. It’s the role that they’re paid to perform in. 

Let’s say that salesperson exceeds their quota. That’s amazing. Of course they should be recognized for that. That should be celebrated. 

But there’s a limit to that recognition, and many organizations make the mistake of going beyond it. 

If you recognize someone for every single thing they do — “Thank you for coming in today.” “Thank you for logging in.” “Thank you for whatever.” — then I think you start to lower the standard of the organization as a whole.

Recognition hits the most and works really well when it’s not as common. When you celebrate someone for doing something truly exceptional, when you have a meritocracy as a firm, the cream rises to the top and actually elevates that standard.

This plays out in other organizations, particularly in sports. What an industry, where the only recognition that you get comes as a result of exceptional performance. The biggest contracts are awarded to those who have the best results, and that’s how I believe it should be. 

But to bring it back to your organization, if someone is going above and beyond, exceeding their targets, then absolutely go out of your way to recognize them. Send them a message. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the work that they’re doing. You’ll see, in many cases, their performance even improves even more as a result of said recognition — and that was free to do. 

That’s the power of recognizing your team members the right way.

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