People have a deep need to feel that they matter. As leaders, we have a unique opportunity to let them know that they do.
Recognizing and celebrating the people in our organization for their goodness is not only the right thing to do, it is one of our fundamental leadership values. Most people come to work every day and wonder, “Does anyone know what I do around here? Does anyone care?” Oh, to be recognized for a job well done!
Richard Pike (pictured above) — an inspector at our HayssenSandiacre (now BW Flexible Systems) company near Greenville, South Carolina — helped show us the power of recognition to allow our team members to feel valued, and to know that they matter.
Richard was one of the first winners of our foremost recognition program. In this program, team members nominate their peers as great examples of leadership in our culture. They have the opportunity to celebrate the everyday greatness in those that they work with day in and day out.
These are no ordinary events. The entire organization gathers for elaborately planned celebrations designed to make the winner feel honored for his or her contributions to our culture. When Richard’s name was announced, he was shocked.
During the event he was awarded the keys to a unique sports car which he drove for a week. Unlike a plaque for his desk, Richard had the chance to drive his “trophy” for a week, inviting questions from his family, friends and neighbors about why he had this unusual car.
Richard had the chance to explain how he was recognized as a leader at work, to which most people responded, “Wow, I wish I worked for a company like that.”
Richard was touched by the thoughtful celebration and the prizes. However, what meant the most to him were the comments shared by his team members — people he had worked side by side with for years — on the nomination forms and during the celebration event. He never dreamed that people considered him a leader.
When I asked Richard one year later how it felt to be a recipient of this award, he said, “Now I come in every day and try to be the person they think I am.”
Richard’s teammates recognized his goodness. They made him see that his contributions truly matter.
Historically in business, we have been quick to let people know what they did wrong. We’re all familiar with this adage: "Twice I did well, that I heard never; once I did ill, that I heard ever." Traditional management teaches us to look for the errors or exceptions, to look for opportunities to improve. When challenged with a new way of thinking — to focus on catching people doing things right — most managers respond, “Why would I thank them for doing their job? That’s what they are paid to do.”
Recognition is a hot topic these days in management circles. There are plenty of articles out there telling you how you can use it to get more out of your team members. If you simply use it as another management tactic, you’ll never experience its true value: knowing that you’ve touched the life of another person.