Leadership Matters to Employees
“I hate my boss. I’m looking for another job!” says one employee.
“I love my job. My boss is amazing!” says another from a different company.
What makes the difference? Leadership!
The best leaders know how to bring out the best in their people.
Good Leadership Includes Recognition
You could think successful leadership comes down to employee motivation, positive reinforcement or even common courtesy. Often happy and fulfilled employees is a result of giving them rewards and recognition where and when it’s due.
Poor leadership fails to recognize good work. How often do you hear employees say to their family and friends, “My boss doesn’t appreciate me? He never says thank you. All I ever get told is what I do wrong!”
What’s worse is when employees receive no feedback whatsoever. They operate in a void not knowing if they are doing a good job or not. As a leader do you fail to give feedback and recognition? If so, here’s an opportunity to change that.
Leadership and Recognition
You can be forgiven for thinking that giving recognition is a touchy-feely warm fuzzy thing to do. No it’s not. Giving recognition is about acknowledging a job well done, encouraging positive outcomes and reinforcing good performance. Giving praise and recognition is also not confined to leaders and managers alone, co-workers should also be encouraged to give recognition for a job well done. This approach develops the leadership skills of the entire team not just the appointed leader.
Successful leaders give praise and recognition effectively. Being able to give praise and feedback effectively is a critical skill for any leader or manager to have.
People need and want to know how they are doing even if they are doing the wrong thing. If they are, they want the opportunity to correct their actions accordingly. How skilled you are at giving praise and feedback will determine how employees take it on board and how effective your leadership skills are.
Everyone wants recognition. Giving recognition to employees helps motivate them to continue to do a good job. In the words of Dale Carnegie:
“Nothing else so inspires and heartens people as words of appreciation. You and I may forget the words of encouragement and appreciation that we utter now, but the person to whom we have spoken them may treasure them and repeat them to themselves over a life time.”
What are rewards and recognition?
Good leaders know that employees are motivated by both intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) rewards. A well balanced reward and recognition system will recognize both types of motivation. A well balanced reward and recognition program should be designed to motivate desired behavior and therefore should be linked to performance.
To be really effective, it is something that should happen throughout the year and not just during an annual performance appraisal.
Types of rewards and recognition could include:
Praise and acknowledgement
Praise from a boss is one of the most important motivators for employees. They want to be valued for the work they do and be recognized for their contributions. Praise can be given in writing such as an email, letter or even a certificate. It can also be given verbally.
Another way to reward an employee is to invest in their professional and personal development. It could be attending a conference or workshop or something more formal such as a training program that leads to some kind of formal qualification. Not only does the employee benefit from developing new skills, the business will benefit as well as the employee applies newly acquired skills and knowledge into the workplace.
Challenging work assignments
Employees like to be challenged at work. If their work is repetitious and mundane, they can lose interest and become demotivated. That’s when mistakes can happen as their mind is no longer on the job. Challenging work assignments provide employees with the opportunity to learn and develop new skills and abilities. It also sends an important message that the employee is valued and makes an important contribution to the workplace.
Why Leaders Don’t Praise and Give Recognition?
Not giving praise and recognition to employees is a leadership failure.
Leaders don’t praise and give recognition because they don’t know how. It’s not part of their vocabulary or it’s a negative attitude towards giving recognition. Some leaders and managers think “why should I praise someone for doing their job, they get paid to do it don’t they?”
There are a multitude of reasons why leaders and managers don’t give praise and recognition.
- They don’t know how
- It’s awkward and uncomfortable
- They don’t feel they have time
- They don’t know what their employees actually do
- They don’t want to set a precedent
- They feel the employee is lucky to have a job
- They are afraid to seem like they are favoring someone
- If you praise them you won’t be able to discipline them
- If you praise them they will want more money
Mostly it’s because they just don’t understand the benefits of giving praise.
Benefits of Leadership Praise?
There are many benefits of giving praise to employees. Employees who feel respected and appreciated are far more likely to be motivated to continue to work well when their efforts are noticed because they feel they are making a difference. As a result they become more engaged in their work and are more committed to achieving business goals and objectives as a team.
In short, happy committed employees make leaders look good because they deliver results.
Unlike stress which releases the stress hormone cortisol into the body, praise can also cause a chemical reaction in the body. When an employee hears something from their leader that makes them feel good, a burst of dopamine is released into the body. Dopamine is a naturally occurring high associated with the feelings of pride, joy, satisfaction and well-being.
When you praise someone, whether you are in a leadership role or not, this reinforces a good habit because the employee wants to have that feeling again.
Leadership Praise Benefits include:
- Reinforces desired performance
- Increases productivity
- Employees take more pride in their work
- Keeps them engaged
- Builds loyalty
- They go the extra mile
- Retains employees
- Encourages growth and success
- Drives organizational success
- Receive higher rates of satisfaction from customers
- Builds stronger teams
- Builds trust
- Heightens commitment
Typical Rewards and Recognition?
Not all rewards and recognition need to cost money. Here are a few ideas some have a cost attached many don’t. Remember to match the reward to the employee.
- Look them in the eye and give them a simple “thank you!
- Present them with a certificate of appreciation
- Post a note on a “bravo” bulletin board
- Send a personal email and copy in others
- Present them with a vote of thanks in a meeting
- Recognize them in a formal letter
- Send them a handwritten note
- Take them to lunch
- Take them and their partner to dinner
- Write a note to their family recognizing their work
- Give them free pass for a paid day off
- Recognize them in a newsletter
- Send a thank you card
- Give them a packet of lifesavers along with a message to say (thanks for being a lifesaver today!”)
- Put on a morning tea spread
- Celebrate their birthday with a cake and candles
- Send them flowers
- Send out a “weekly great achievements” email
- Hand out a “bright idea” award for being innovative
- Give them a pass to the movies or a bowling alley
- Allocate them a paid Christmas shopping day or half day
- Have each employee write something positive about all other employees to give them all recognition
- Host an annual reward ceremony
- Implement “casual” Friday
- Arrange for a massage at their desk
What is the Difference Between Praise and Feedback?
Feedback and praise can be one of the same thing, praise is feedback but feedback isn’t always about giving praise. Praise is a useful tool for improving performance. Feedback can also be used to improve performance.
Good quality feedback can help:
- Develop new skills
- Develop understanding
- Improve performance
- Improve motivation
- Boost confidence levels
- Show people you value them
- Determine how to change and improve performance
Praise helps to:
- Motivate people when they are performing well
- Increase confidence levels
- Encourage employees to continue to perform at optimum levels
Praise is often under used and undervalued as a way of giving feedback and yet it has considerable potential to improve performance. Leaders and managers get so caught up with being busy or looking to catch people doing the wrong thing they forget to catch people doing the right thing. Recognizing the strength in others and giving praise and recognition requires a conscious effort.
Be careful not to confuse praise and feedback. Feedback can be positive or negative. When given in conjunction with one another, employees will have the tendency to remember the negative feedback over the positive.
How to Give Praise and Recognition?
For praise and recognition to have any meaning, it has to be genuine and based on evidence, otherwise it becomes flattery. There is a difference between things and achievement. “Things” refer to items that people own or possess. Example, a nice car, a large house, a beautiful watch or ring or nice clothes. Giving recognition for things may mean something to some people, but generally this is superficial.
Giving praise for achievement or a job well done is more meaningful and genuine especially when it comes from the leader. However, it must also be backed up by evidence.
Consider the following.
“I like what you are wearing today, it suits you.”
“You did an amazing job on that project last week, the report was unbelievably well-presented and professional.”
Which comment do you think would have a more lasting impact on the person receiving the feedback?
The first comment is giving feedback about a thing (their clothing). There’s nothing wrong with that. Telling someone they look good might help build their self-esteem but it doesn’t help build performance levels.
The second comment is specific, it refers to the project and report (evidence) and the feedback is that they did an amazing job. A comment like this from a leader or manager is far more likely to improve performance as the person receiving the comment is more likely to want to reach the same standard the next time they work on a project. It also reinforces what they did well and that they should do more of it.
Praising people for a job well done is far more powerful than criticizing them for something they didn’t do well.
- Give praise and positive feedback openly and in public to encourage others to want to receive positive feedback as well.
- Make this a habit by catching people doing what you want to continue to see.
- Be quick to praise and slow to blame.
Remember When Giving Recognition
If giving praise and recognition is not something you do naturally, then this is a skill anyone in a leadership role needs to master. Remember when giving recognition:
- Be specific about what the employee did or said that is worthy of recognition.
- Tell them what they said or did was good and how it contributed to the overall success of your organization.
- Don’t end with a “but” that turns a positive into a negative, keep the sting out of the tail.
- Put it on record and follow up verbal recognition with an email, letter or certificate which is something they can refer back to.
- Let others know they did a good job by going public.
- If someone else recognizes a team member, let them know you know by congratulating them as well.
- Look for opportunities to praise and give recognition – remember, catch people doing the “right” thing.
Leadership for some doesn’t come naturally. OFr others they are natural leaders. Regardless, when in leadership roles it is vital to keep developing your leadership skills with ongoing education and training. Many great leaders have mentors or executive coaches to help pave the way towards leadership success.
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