Careers: Articles - Recognition, The Power of the Pen

The closest most of us get to any one of these honors is to watch the ceremonies through a T.V. screen. We see the recipients radiate, sometimes with tears streaming down their faces while they thank all those who supported them in realizing their dream. The emotion chokes us. The elation lifts us. For a moment we soar along with them. We can imagine those feelings of acknowledgment, of being seen, being heard, of knowing that our life¹s work has been recognized.

We then turn the television off, and it¹s back to "the real world". In the business environment I have witnessed people being absolutely oblivious to thanking others for the magnificent jobs they do day in and day out. It is simply astounding. What¹s even more astonishing to me is that not only do most leaders forget to recognize others, they don¹t even recognize themselves and the contributions they make to their own company.

Somehow in this society we have confused fame with recognition. The sad by-product being that only the famous are recognized. I don't believe that only the stars deserve to be recognized. What about the company heroes you encounter on an every day basis?

How about the H&R manager that juggles 150 personalities, not to mention the reams of paperwork attached to that many employees? What about the PR team that makes your company shine in numerous press releases, brochures and even to the national press? Or the engineers who literally knock themselves out figuring out and fixing a software problem, one that could fold your company, but one that will never even be a concern for you because those everyday wizards take care of it "all in a day's work"?

As human beings, and as professionals, we need to be recognized. In a world where there is so much media and global overload, it¹s all too common for most people to go unrewarded. Any psychologist can tell you that for most humans, recognition is more important than money and is the number one motivator of your people.

The people you work with need to know that they are valued. That goes beyond the standard paycheck at the end of the week. Think about it; when it comes down to it, as an employer you simply rent your team members time - you don¹t own them. Renting time may not sound like such a big deal until you realize it is the single most precious commodity in the world; our time on earth. I really believe recognition, appreciation and reward are crucial to survival in the marketplace today. It's simply good business.

I had a passionate, almost heated debate with a CEO during a business lunch on this very subject. His stance was, if you praise people, they will go soft on you. They will know they are doing well and will not work as intensely as if you consistently kept them "on the edge" wondering if they mattered. His company went from $150, 000, 000 to zero within a year because his team abandoned him for better environments, and they took their clients with them.

A simple pat on the back, a mention of thanks, can literally move mountains in the working world. In my experience most people are hard working, capable, and take pride in the work they do. Loyalty has to be earned and to earn it you have to acknowledge a job well done. Productivity rises for teams that are rewarded for the work they do. It¹s a simple fact. Your bottom line rises with a team that feels appreciated.

Employee of the month programs don't work because you create one winner and dozens of losers. A much better approach is a hand written (and glowing) thank you note on company letterhead. A small note of thanks left on someone¹s desk or in their mailbox can lift a team member in ways you may never imagine. This is perhaps one of the most valuable ways to reward a great employee. An addition to this great tactic is to hand them the note and shake their hand in front of the rest of the team, stating your gratitude for a job well done.

These personal moments add up and create loyalty, team members who will go above and beyond as well as creating a work environment that will encourage your team members to hang in through the inevitable rough times. It also has the added benefit of helping to attract good people and keeping them.

So unleash that expensive fountain pen you got for the holidays and write a couple of thank you cards. Once you see the effect, I am sure you'll make it a regular activity.

If you'd like some additional tips on motivating your team, send an e-mail to with the word "Motivation" in the subject line.

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.
For more than two decades Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organizations worldwide have relied on Dr. Barton Goldsmith to help them develop creative and balanced leadership. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, business consultant and nationally syndicated author. His columns appear in over 150 publications, including the Los Angeles Business Journal. Dr. Goldsmith works regularly with The Young President¹s Organization (YPO) and The Executive Committee (TEC). Considered an expert on small business, he has spoken worldwide to groups of 10 to 5,000, and is in high demand for Keynotes, Training and Consulting. He may be contacted through his web site or at (818) 879-9996.



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