Today’s show is Recognition. Listen to the show on iTunes and Stitcher.

Don: [00:00:01] We estimate that about 80 percent of the recognition that employees get is negative. This employee, in their open-ended answer said, “I did this job 99 times perfectly. The one time I made a mistake was the only time I saw my manager that month. Where was my manager the 99 times I did it right?”

Don: [00:00:25] My name is Don Rheem CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.”

Don: [00:00:34] I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and valued.

Don: [00:00:47] Employees who feel safe are happier, healthier and more productive. Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges.

Don: [00:01:01] And, you’re listening to Thrive By Design, a podcast created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs and leaders the tips, strategies and tools needed to create an engaged culture at work.

Kelly: [00:01:17] Welcome. I’m your host Kelly Burns, vice president of client experiences at E3 Solutions.

Kelly: [00:01:22] As always we tackle critical workplace themes each week with our resident expert and CEO Don Rheem.

Kelly: [00:01:29] Welcome Don and thank you for taking the time to be here with us.

Don: [00:01:32] It’s my pleasure, Kelly.

Kelly: [00:01:34] As we heard at the top of today’s episode this week’s focus is on recognition.

Kelly: [00:01:38] Recognition is the key to a high-performance workplace culture. The best cultures are built on a foundation of consistent, trusted and frequent recognition.

Kelly: [00:01:50] Sadly one industry study pointed out that even though a significant majority of organizations see employee recognition as extremely valuable for driving individual performance, only 14 percent of those organizations actually provide managers with the necessary tools and resources to help support, reward and recognition among their team members.

Kelly: [00:02:10] In another study praise and commendation for managers was rated as a top motivator for performance, beating out other non-cash and financial incentives by a majority of workers.

Kelly: [00:02:20] Clearly recognition is a major driver of high-performance cultures but we’re not doing enough to equip managers to do this well and often. Why not?

Don: [00:02:29] We ask the same question when we go in and work with organizations.

Don: [00:02:33] It’s free. It can be done easily. Why isn’t more of it happening?

Don: [00:02:37] And, as we’ve come to know it’s in large part because recognition wasn’t given to the managers, they grew up through the ranks and so they’re not doing it either. We talked about that when we were the previous podcast round, validation.

Don: [00:02:49] We estimate that about 80 percent of the recognition that employees get is negative. It’s the manager telling them what they’ve done wrong. That’s recognition around a job, it’s just negative recognition.

Don: [00:03:00] There is this one line and I may have mentioned this in a previous podcast but it’s worth repeating. This employee in their open-ended answer said, “I did this job 99 times perfectly. The one time I made a mistake was the only time I saw my manager that month.” You could just hear the lack of equity in there. But then the employee finished it with this. “Where was my manager the 99 times I did it right?” And that’s a fair question. Are we showing up and just recognizing what’s right about what they’re doing? And managers need to be able to devote more time to doing that.

Kelly: [00:03:38] I think there’s a couple of ways where positive recognition can really backfire and create a stronger sense of disengagement than it does create engagement. And these are two areas I think leaders need to be aware of and prevent in the way that they behave.

Kelly: [00:03:52] The first one is when they’re only recognizing employees who shine really brightly or who put their work repeatedly in front of the face of their leaders in a way that forces them to be recognized.

Kelly: [00:04:04] For the colleagues who are more head down or more quiet about the way that they work. If they’re not getting that same recognition as an employee who is forcing their work to be noticed, it’s going to cause a lot of disengagement amongst the team in the relationships and collaboration there’s gonna be breakdowns there, if a leader doesn’t pay attention to every team member and the work that they’re contributing across the board.

Don: [00:04:30] You know, you’ve identified something that’s I guess, it’s more of the personality trait side. You have people that are constantly trying to be number one. They might actually be on the narcissism scale which is a spectrum in their degrees of narcissism. But that employee that’s always seeking the recognition even though it wasn’t all about them. Then we have these other employees that you might say are more shy or a little bit more there they’re holding back. They don’t seem to need much recognition and so managers actually stopped giving it to them because they don’t feel like they need it.

Don: [00:05:01] We need to give recognition, to your point, to all employees even the ones that aren’t the so-called shining stars but find something that they’re doing that’s worthy of recognition in doing it.

Don: [00:05:12] I’ll give you an example of this. We have a half day workshop on recognition. One of the things that we ask managers to do is we use a phrase slice it thinner. And, that is, look for smaller increments of what we would refer to as discretionary effort something that the employee didn’t have to do. It’s not a part of their job description but they did it. It’s a little bit over and above and beyond the normal. It doesn’t have to be huge, just small increments.

Don: [00:05:36] The one story where this really resonated with me was with a client and this organization they’re working round the clock shifts, seven days a week. They’re working really hard. And here I am inside talking to some of these leaders and asking them to look for these examples of discretionary effort. And, One of the managers stands up and says, Don, you’ve been with our company over two years. You know how hard we’re working here. There’s just isn’t anything left discretionary. Everyone’s exhausted. And I said, look, I get it, you guys work really hard, but I said, just for a moment think back over the last week on your shift. Did any of your direct reports at any of your staff, your team do something that they didn’t have to do?

Don: [00:06:17] And at first he was shaking his head no. And then his head slowed down and it stopped. And he kind of looked down at the floors, which indicated to me he was probably seeing someone, that they were doing. And I asked him, “who do you see?” And, he said, “Michelle.”

Don: [00:06:32] What was Michelle doing? And, he said, “well, it was at the end of her shift she heard a noise in one of the machines and the last time she heard that noise in a machine, that machine broke down and stopped working within like a day.” And when these machines break down the whole shift misses its production targets and it’s rugged. So she’s stayed to debrief the next shift on which machine and where she heard it so that they could bring up the engineers and maintenance before it totally went down.

Don: [00:07:03] And so I looked at him and I said that is a fantastic example of a thin slice of discretionary effort. I said, “Is that in her job description? Is she supposed to do that?” He said, “no.” I said, “did you tell her to do that?” He said, “no.” Then I said, “did you thank her for doing that?” And, he said, “no.”

Don: [00:07:21] And, then this is my question. If Michelle gets recognition for doing that. Is she more or less likely to do it again?

Kelly: [00:07:27] More.

Don: [00:07:27] Absolutely more. And this is how managers can start to create a virtuous circle of more and more exemplary effort is by simply recognizing it when we see it in these small little slices.

Kelly: [00:07:41] Across the board to every employee they have not just the loud one. No not just the squeaky wheel that’s begging for grease.

Kelly: [00:07:49] That’s right.

Kelly: [00:07:49] Another way that recognition could backfire is if you don’t have a way for that recognition to come across in a genuine way. Making recognition feel genuine is a critical part of connecting. Some employee and leader relationships make connection and recognition very natural. But there’s other relationships where leaders can struggle to create a bond or a connection that allows regular recognition to feel genuine. Sometimes it feels a bit to me like a chicken and egg situation. Does a leader first need to build trust and rapport so that recognition feels genuine? Or do leaders need recognition to regularly happen in order to build that trust in rapport?

Don: [00:08:29] It’s not one or the other it’s actually both happening at the same time. So this goes back to how does the brain determine whether something is trustworthy?

Don: [00:08:37] And the two most critical components of making something, allowing something to be seen as trustworthy, is it happens consistently and predictably.

Don: [00:08:48] If a manager wants their recognition to be trusted they need to do it again and again and again. And this is something that managers struggle with because they say Don I haven’t done this before and if I start doing this they’re going to think it’s weird.

Don: [00:09:01] In fact, I had one guy and one audience he raised his hand and he said, “Is it important for this to be authentic? And I said, “absolutely.” And he said, “Great I’m out. I can’t do it. Never done it before. I probably shouldn’t try.”

Don: [00:09:13] And I said, “No no no no. The only way out is through.” If you want your recognition to be seen as trusted and authentic you need to do it from the heart. You really do need to care and love your employees. You need to be present with them when you do it, direct eye contact, connect with him not doing 100 things at the same time. And give that in deeply and if you can connect that recognition to a core value it also helps make it feel more substantive.

Don: [00:09:39] When we talk about recognition, we have some key highlights that we suggest for managers.

Don: [00:09:44] Recognition, number one if you’re going to do only one thing differently around recognition do it more frequently. Just how often you do it. We do set in in our survey we say we actually ask this. Do I get recognition at least once a week? And that’s something we measure. That’s the cadence. Managers should be looking for something to recognize and each one of their direct reports once a week.

Kelly: [00:10:07] And two, to that point specifically, that survey question doesn’t get very high ratings it gets on average a 2.77 out of 4.0. That falls into the disengaged side of the bell curve in our survey data, that employees are not getting this kind of acknowledgment every week from their manager.

Don: [00:10:25] Yeah and it’s rugged and I get this every time when we do a debrief from our survey.

Don: [00:10:30] The manager saying hey but I do do it. I just don’t do it once a week. There is no question that we’re pushing this as the norm. We are pushing managers to dig deep and to find this relational part of what they could do and make it available.

Don: [00:10:47] We even give them a list of things to do we call this take 10 to engage. We want them to take 10 minutes on Monday morning, look at this list of ways that they could recognize employees, right the employee’s name down that most fits for that particular tactic and then do it. And they only get to check it off when it’s done.

Don: [00:11:06] We know that it’s really important to create new habits around doing this and a list is a great way of doing that.

Kelly: [00:11:13] What’s the difference in public and private recognition and how should leaders view those two different approaches to supporting their employees?

Don: [00:11:21] Private recognition is probably the most valuable and for a couple of reasons. If you have a really strong player on your team and you’re giving them recognition all the time in front of the team, like in a team meeting, that employee is likely to be seen as a favorite might have end up with a target on their back.

Don: [00:11:35] I like a lot of individual recognition to be given privately. And if you’re going to give an individual public recognition please ask their permission first, because there’s a significant number of employees that don’t want to be singled out and recognized. And it’s in part because they feel it separates them from their group and they want to be a part of a group, they don’t want to be set aside and singled out over and above.

Don: [00:12:00] So when you ask this individual say, hey, can I give you this recognition at the next, for example, all employee meeting they say actually no I’d rather you didn’t. Then you say kind of give recognition to your team and they most always say yes and that’s okay.

Don: [00:12:14] There are two other parts of recognition that I liked, well three other parts around recognition.

Don: [00:12:19] So number one, I said do it more frequently. Number two, is an issue around proximity, is the term I use and there’s two parts to that. You want to be as close to the employee as possible. I mean face to face when you give them the recognition. So the geography, the spacing is important. The second part of proximity is timing. Give them the recognition as close to the event that triggered it as possible. If you wait a month to do it at a staff meeting, it just doesn’t register as much to the individual. The next part is around specificity. The more specific detailed the recognition is the more it’s likely to be seen as authentic but also the more helpful it is.

Don: [00:12:56] If I simply said hey, atta girl Kelly, great job. You walk away saying well gosh I did like 20 things on that project I wonder what it was that really resonated. I want to say hey Kelly great job on that assignment. The fact that you were so careful in how you thought that through and what the outcome would be you began with the end in mind which really changed the process and made it better. I really appreciate the depth of your thinking in this and you didn’t just execute you were really thoughtful about it. Now you know, okay my manager appreciates thoughtfulness. And so what you’re automatically going to do is to start thinking, think you’re doing an assignment, okay, now if I was going to be thoughtful what would I do differently. And you’re just you’re gonna evoke these other behaviors. So recognition can evoke new behaviors in an individual as they start to get clues about what is my manager see and value. I’m going to start doing more of that.

Don: [00:13:48] And then the last thing about recognition I would say is it should be positive. Again, as I mentioned before so much of recognition that managers give is negative.

Don: [00:13:56] Can I close with just some really effective action points that a manager can be. Frequent face to face given quickly. Full of details and make it positive. And any manager can do that thoughtfully.

Kelly: [00:14:10] That’s it for today. I’m your host Kelly Burns and thank you for listening.

Kelly: [00:14:15] Tune in to next week’s episode on the impact of regular feedback conversations.

Kelly: [00:14:21] Are you looking for science-based solutions to increase employee engagement and retention? Are you ready to measure key drivers of high-performance? Do you want your team to look forward to coming to work? Don’t wait. Check out E3 right now.

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Kelly: [00:14:45] Thrive By Design is produced and audio engineered by Megan Rummler.

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