Never Leave People to Their Own Devices

I recently spoke to a group of senior and middle managers at a healthcare organization all with company issued BlackBerry’s on tow at their tables.
I warned them to not dare let me catch them giving feedback or expressing recognition to someone while looking at their Smartphones or BlackBerry’s or any other electronic device in hand. There was an audible chuckling from everyone and some impish grins on many people’s faces.
You know what this means. Some have been guilty of doing this no-no.
Put them down or turn them off when giving recognition!!
Not paying attention to people when communicating – and especially having their face glued to their electronic devices - is a common complaint individuals give me. Especially when giving recognition.
Get beyond conversing and think about the importance we should place in expressing positive feedback and words of appreciation. Of all words communicated these ones need to be felt.
Giving praise and recognition is a whole body, whole person experience.
Keep these following thoughts in mind in the world of electronic devices we live in:
1. When you don’t put down your devices when giving recognition you’re actually putting down the individual you thought you were acknowledging.
2. Each time you divide your attention between a device and a person you’re expressing appreciation to you divide the real value of the recognition given.
3. Think what you are really communicating to a person you are recognizing when you look at an electronic device and not them.
4. Make a conscious act of turning your device face down on the table to demonstrate the importance of the person to you.
5. Learn to put your whole being into recognition giving by turning completely towards the person and taking in their appearance and wellbeing as you thank them.
Q: What are you personally doing to detach yourself from your electronic devices when recognizing people?


4 Ways To Be Crystal Clear About Recognition

Be careful when expressing recognition not to be too brief.
Statements like “Well done!”, “Great job!”, or “Excellent!”, when left in isolation, may not be enough to create the intended message or feeling of appreciation for a person.
The irony is, while we may think we were perfectly clear by giving such succinct words of praise to a person, recipients may think they can see right through them.
They already know what they did was well done and a great job. That’s exactly what they do every day when they come to work. It’s part of the employer-employee agreement they signed up for when hired – do good work and you’ll get paid the agreed upon wage or salary. They are good people who are honest and care about what they do.
Sometimes we sacrifice clarity in the recognition experience we give to people by being short and sweet.
My recommendation is to look through the glass of recognition carefully and make it much clearer.
1. Describe the behaviors the person displayed in their action on the job that stood out for you, and possibly even wowed you.
If it is simply their consistency in coming in early every day and knowing they are someone you can always count on – tell them that. If they went above and beyond in how they served a customer in the store this morning, retell the movie script of what you saw them do so they know you observed everything they did.
2. Differentiate how someone went above and beyond from what others most typically do in a respectful yet worth enhancing manner.

We can often talk about an individual’s exceptional, above and beyond performance at work. This warrants comparing above and beyond with normal acceptable work. Can you tell the difference? Then let the employee know as well. Now not only does the recipient of recognition know but so will every other employee too. You have raised the bar and set the standard for everyone else.
3. Create the line of sight between an individual’s actions and the achievement of strategic goals and directives.

Employees are not always mindful of the business objectives senior leaders are constantly aware of. When an employee moves the dial on performance for some strategic initiative make sure you let them know. People need to see how their behaviors connect the dots to the bottom-line.
4. Add purpose and meaning to the contributions people make each and every day.

All of us want to make a difference in some shape or form whether in a small and simple way or a big and significant way. When an employee’s action merit being acknowledged, tell them specifically how their behaviors are meaningful to you, or to a customer, perhaps to their colleagues, or even to the company as a whole.
If you start by saying “Well done!” to someone don’t stop there. Continue on with one of these add ons so they really know why you are recognizing them.
Always make it crystal clear what the recognition is all about.
Q: How do you ensure your recognition is always crystal clear to a person? Leave you answer in the comments.

Authenticity: Being Consistent In Giving Genuine Recognition

People want to know you’re for real when you express appreciation to them.
Our research continues to show that consistency in giving regular and meaningful praise and acknowledgement is just one way to demonstrate this authenticity that people desire. Employees repeatedly tell us that authenticity with recognition and praise received is essential for it to be considered “real” and heartfelt.
Let’s examine the word “authenticity” and see what we can learn etymologically from its root origins.
From the Latin we get authenticus generating the idea that authenticity is something “coming from the author”. Just as a voiceprint is a set of measurable characteristics of a human voice that uniquely identifies an individual, people know when you speak words of appreciation whether it’s authentic or not. People hear and feel authenticity.

Then there is the Greek form of the word from authentikos, which is from authentēs meaning one who acts independently, or “auto-”, and the word hentēs which is “a doer”.
I like that – an independent doer. Authenticity is proven when we do the right things of our own accord.

Consistency in our words and actions naturally breeds credibility. When we have generated credibility in ourselves then we are counted as someone who is trustworthy. People believe people they can trust.

Those attributes help build quality relationships between us and others. What we say and do is now counted as being genuine.

That’s authenticity.

Let’s keep our recognition giving real! 

Q: What things do you do to show people that the recognition you give is genuine and authentic?


Dirty Laundry and Problems with Rewarding Perfect Attendance

Harvard Business School had one of its professors come out with a jointly written study called The Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field.
The authors of the study essentially conducted a cost - benefits analysis of an attendance award program that was implemented in an industrial laundry plant. They concluded with a cautionary note on using awards programs because of the unintended effects of using rewards. The unexpected outcomes included their most productive and punctual workers demonstrating 6% to 8% less productivity along with employees gaming the program to gain an award. Productivity across the entire plant was reduced by 1.4%.
As soon as I hear gaming of a system I know there is an ineffective rewards strategy that’s been implemented: ineffective identification of the target behaviors; poor measuring stick of the right behaviors; wrong reward associated with the wrong behaviors, etc. You get the idea.
Please read the overview or the full study to learn what this laundry company did. Just don’t malign awards and rewards programs entirely with a dirty paintbrush. Either read my comments ahead of time or come back and tell me what you think.
Here is my response to the Harvard Business School study:
Strangely enough many organizations still reward, or at least recognize individuals with perfect attendance. Some companies give cash or gift cards and others just post names of employees who have perfect attendance on their company intranet site or written up in newsletters or magazines.
A reward is “something given or done (sometimes monetary), in return for meeting pre-determined goals, service or achievement”. The problem with perfect attendance reward programs is that companies are rewarding employees for something they have no control over and cannot achieve on their own merits. Either that or you are motivating people to come into work when they are sick just so they can claim that reward at the end of the designated time period.
Straight Shooting Tips for Dealing with Absenteeism
1. Re-evaluate any perfect attendance reward programs you have. Ask yourself if you are rewarding the presence of unhealthy employees or just giving a bonus to those who are naturally healthy? What are you really rewarding?
2. Ensure all managers are well versed in absenteeism management. Regularly review company policies and steps necessary when absences occur. Managers setting clear expectations and consistently holding employees accountable for absences, while being sensitive to genuine needs, make the greatest impact on reducing absenteeism.
3. Recognize and manage the different types of absentees. Saul Gellerman in his book “Motivation in the Real World” identifies 4 Types of Absentees and how to treat them.Provide social praise and attention when the Habitual Absentee is actually at work; move the Conformist Absentee to a department or unit which has lower absentee levels; and help the Escapist Absentee to finally find their life purpose and a job fit either within the company or elsewhere.
4. Use recognition versus rewards for perfect attendance. If you must make public acknowledgement of perfect attendance, use regular recognition rather than rewards. Best make it at the unit level where the employee’s immediate manager or supervisor can mention achievement in a staff meeting and perhaps present a framed certificate.
5. Manage human motivation and work-life balance. In reality, managing absenteeism is about knowing your employees very well and what their motivations are. It is developing trust so they can inform you of their life and family issues. Then you just have to manage work around their life.
We have to very careful with how we set up and use awards, recognition and rewards correctly: identifying the target behaviors properly; measuring the right behaviors the right way; giving the right rewards for the right actions.
You can’t just use the dirt from one awards program to suggest all awards programs will create unintended consequences. Just sort your lights and darks, insert the laundry detergent, and follow all other directions carefully.
When you understand the right way to use awards, recognition and rewards properly everything will come out in the wash.


Q: How have you seen award, recognition or reward programs given a bad reputation because of flawed strategy and design?

You Have to Believe in the Worth of People First

Recognition depends on valuing people first before you can value what they do.
Let me illustrate.
I was doing some consulting work in India on the 12th floor or so of an office building and meeting in a boardroom of a corporate client’s office.
My client hosts were facing me and I couldn’t help but see all that was going on behind them through the large glass window.
A hotel was being built across the way and the concrete framing of the building appeared to be completed. Then I noticed in contrast to the double row of metal scaffolding with flooring I was used to with North American construction, here they had just bamboo poles tied together and only one row of poles all the way up.
To make things worse I saw two or three men painting away on the relief work of the future hotel windows. They held on to those bamboo poles with one foot on and single handedly stretched themselves out to paint the concrete.
I was aghast as I processed what I saw.
The stunned reaction on my face must have been apparent to my hosts, who asked, “Is anything wrong, Roy?”
How do you carefully answer this without offending your hosts in another country?
I responded as diplomatically as I could at the spur of the moment and said, “I am looking at the apparent lack of safety across the way.”
To which my hosts all made a fleeting glance over their shoulders to look. One of them said, “You have to understand, Roy, there are so many people in India that if one person dies there is always another person to take their place.” And with that the meeting continued.
I reflected later on this scenario and continue to do so even today. If we do not value the infinite worth of an individual and their life, can we ever really fully appreciate them for who they are and recognize them for what they do?
I do not minimize the harsh realities of the socio-economic circumstances of many similar countries on our planet.
Perhaps we can change beliefs and feelings about recognition in the world by rallying around a universal statement of worth of each human being and the contributions they each can make.
Question yourself on how you value people at work, in your community, even at home. Reflect on how your perspective of worth impacts the appreciation and recognition you give to people.
Give high value to the worth of people around you and you will naturally give magnificent recognition!
Q: What is the value of an employee in your organization?

An Invitation to Join Me in New Orleans!

Recognition Professionals International's Annual Sharing Conference April 28 – May 1, 2013
Recognition Professionals International (RPI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing employee recognition in the workplace. The organization consists of both practitioners and providers. (Please see
Rideau has been an active member of Recognition Professionals International (RPI) since 2001 as well as a Platinum sponsor for a number of years now, the main reason being that we really believe in the organization. Many of my colleagues have served on the Board or on the various committees. I’m proud to say that over 60 of my colleagues have become Certified Recognition Professionals (CRP), which is the largest number of CRPs from any one company.
Every year, RPI organizes a conference and many of the world’s leading recognition experts come together to share industry best practices.  This year’s conference is being held in New Orleans at the Riverside Hilton from April 28th to May 1st and it is shaping up to be one of the best ever! 
Two of my colleagues; Roy Saunderson and S. Max Brown from Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute are speaking in breakout sessions. 
Roy’s session is taking place on Monday, April 29, 2013 from 3:30pm - 4:30pm. His topic will is “Decoupling Recognition & Rewards”. This is an important topic because all too often folks use the words “recognition” and “rewards” synonymously but they are two very different things.
Max’s session will take place on Tuesday, April 30 from 2:00pm – 3:00pm. He will be presenting with Steve Richardson who is the Manager of Recognition Programs for RBC Financial Group, a Rideau client since 1991. Their chosen topic will be on: "How Social Media Impacts Recognition Results."(maybe want to add time here as well?)
Please join me and my colleagues in New Orleans for the best recognition happening of the year!
Recognition Professionals International's Annual Sharing Conference April 28 May 1, 2013

The Evolution of Recognition

I'd love it if someone would write the history of the recognition industry.

If they did, it would have to come from two completely different aspects.

The first, would be from the perspective of Academics and OD types who realized that recognition played a key role in a person's individual well being and collectively, to the well being of an organization.

The second would be from the perspective of companies supplying recognition and reward programs. Many of these suppliers got into the business because they were seeking an outlet for their manufactured products.

I confess that my company was no different... we were a manufacturer of emblematic jewelry and corporate award programs were a great outlet for our products.

I think there was and still is a wide gulf between the two groups and is reflected by the fact that over 90% of corporations have recognition programs yet 60% of employees don't feel recognized.

There has been far too much focus on the material and not enough on the ethereal.

Fortunately people are starting to connect the dots. People like my colleague Roy Saunderson of the Recognition Management Institute and Christophe Laval of VPHR are teaching people that recognition is about feelings and emotions.

I'd love it if someone would write the history of the recognition industry.

Thanks for the Endorsement. But Am I Obligated to Endorse You Back?

I am really tickled pink so many people have been endorsing me lately on LinkedIn.
A few are close colleagues and friends I work with and I appreciate them for their gesture. Some of these endorsers haven’t seen me in forever; a few are simply connections of connections; and others I do question if they really know exactly what I do. There’s no doubt it has probably been a while since many of us have connected in person...if ever!
If I understand correctly how LinkedIn is functioning, first, you are notified you have a new endorsement. That seems pretty cool!
LinkedIn then cues you up with the idea of paying it forward. A populated feed shows up of several of your followers and asks you if each individual knows about “marketing”, or whatever expertise, drawn from their profile content.
What seemed like a nice gesture from an individual now has a system with rule bound logic that can make you feel guilty if you don’t reciprocate right away.
An endorsement used to be a big deal to receive someone’s approval and sanctioning of your work. Yes, occasionally you would solicit such endorsements and you knew how important it was to be so respectful of the relationship you had created and the value implied by having someone give their endorsement for personal, marketing, political or whatever significant purpose.
Are we perhaps trivializing the term “endorsement” by making it just one click away? Are gamification rules pushing us to do things we wouldn’t normally do on a regular basis?
Let’s not minimize the value attributed to important words and special actions.
Q: Why do you endorse certain individuals over others?

Please Connect the Dots for People

Our kids loved doing those join the dots coloring books when they were young.
You’ve seen the books I’m sure. By following the numbers and drawing a line between each consecutive dot you gradually see what the object is right before your eyes.
Employees are just big kids when it comes to recognition and they want you to help them join the dots.
Our research in effective expressing of recognition clearly shows employees want to know two things about what they are being recognized for:
1. First, is simply to tell the person specifically what they have done that they are being recognized for.
2. And second, is to tell them specifically how their actions made a difference to you, their peers, a customer, or to the company.
They want to know the line of sight of how what they did made an impact towards the business or goals of the organization.
And they want to know that they matter to you.
Now go join the dots between some recognition and the impact someone has made.
Q: How do you join the dots for employees between recognition and performance?

What If Playing The Game Is Just As Important As Winning It?

That question was partially asked in a Seth Godin’s blog and it made me wonder about employee recognition of course!
Do we get so caught up with winning as we play the game of life and work that we feel we have to be recognized all the time?
These days recognition, incentives and reward programs are having the rules of gamification heavily applied to them to induce and influence people’s participation and achievement. From badges to bling to leader boards, the very act of acknowledging people is getting behaviorally conditioned versus letting it be the right thing to do.
Remember playing a game of Monopoly with family or friends that lasted for hours? Half the fun was being together. There was always the competitive spirit and underlying negotiations to try and win, of course. Strategy ensued on what properties to buy and what to invest in. Time then ended, Monopoly money was all spent up and ultimately a winner was declared.
But we all enjoyed playing the game. No one ever worried about who was second, third or whatever.
It was the game we enjoyed and not the gamification…not the winning.
We enjoyed the camaraderie. The unknown suspense of where the top hat was going to land. There was also the luck of the draw and the elements of surprise and choice with no manipulated outcome.
Let’s appreciate the real value of life and the work we are privileged to do. Stop and consider the amazing colleagues and friends you get to share your work with. Breathe in the gifts that others give you with their time, service and kindness.
Play the game well.
Q: Are you enjoying the game of work and life or are you too caught up in winning?
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