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Written by John McMahon



Human beings are hard-wired to crave recognition.

When we know that others are seeing us in a positive light, our brains release a few chemicals into our systems that make us feel good both physically and emotionally. This feeling encourages us to engage or move towards the source that triggered it.

In short, we move closer because we want more of that feeling.

Recognition Feels Good

I was reminded of this on a recent flight from the city of Chicago, which had just held its annual marathon.

I was in my seat, waiting for other passengers to take theirs when I overheard multiple people offering congratulations to a man who was making his way down the aisle.

At first, I thought he might be someone famous or a public figure who’d accomplished something newsworthy.

I was wrong.

As he passed by me, I saw that he was wearing the medal he’d received for completing the marathon. Walking upright and proudly, he graciously accepted recognition from strangers as he made his way to his seat. Can you put yourself in his shoes and imagine how good that must have felt?

Now imagine what your business would be like if every person in it felt as good about themselves as that marathoner did. Everyone, leaning in, moving forward and feeling great about what they’re achieving.

And if the thought of your people feeling great isn’t enough for you, research shows that when people are operating in this mode, their productivity goes up 25-50%.

When is a Good Time to Give Recognition?

Recognition isn’t the only source of engagement, but it’s a powerful one. In our work with our clients, we teach several tools to help them systematize it and build it into the fabric of their companies. Here are a few that you might consider using:

  • State of the Company Meeting: This is a quarterly all-hands meeting in which Leadership shares the vision, describes the plan, and makes sure everyone knows where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. In that meeting, we encourage leaders to publicly recognize key accomplishments and things people did that exemplified the company’s culture and values. We also encourage them to give employees the chance to recognize one another. It’s a powerful way of saying directly to your people, “You belong here. We value your presence.”
  • Quarterly Conversations: This is an informal 1-on-1 conversation that helps leaders stay connected to their direct reports. It happens outside of routine day-to-day interactions and is not a performance review. Instead, it’s a forum to ensure that no less than every 90 days, every employee has the opportunity to raise issues, discuss how they’re feeling, voice concerns, and get helpful guidance. It’s also an opportunity for you to recognize them for performance and behavior that have made a difference. It helps them stay connected and feel valued.
  • Real-Time Recognition: The best time to let someone know that you caught them in the act of doing something great is right away. When you see someone do something praiseworthy, let them know and thank them for it as soon as possible. Even better, call your team together (or use the Headlines section of your Level-10 Meeting™) to thank and recognize them in front of their peers.

None of these tools costs a penny. Yet they have the power to trigger positive feelings in your people and strengthen their sense of self-worth, engagement, loyalty, and results.

If you’re at a point where increased engagement and productivity would help your business, consider giving these no-cost/high-impact tools a try. Start recognizing your people regularly. You’ll be glad you did.

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