Written by: Bill Mugavin

Praise is powerful.  According to philosopher and psychologist William James, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Everyone desires to feel valued, and recognition for a job well done is encouragement to keep striving toward the next goal.  This is not only good for achieving organizational objectives but for creating a culture of community.

Giving praise and recognition is the single most powerful activity a manager can do. It’s the key to successful employee development and growth.  Recognition reinforces behaviors that move people closer to achieving their goals, both personally and professionally, and it encourages them to keep moving forward.

Recognition is not a complex process, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple things. As a reminder, here are key things to keep in mind:

  1. Be immediate. Feedback and positive reinforcement are most successful when given in the moment. Waiting to provide feedback can hinder action, as many employees need affirmation that they’re contributing to their organization’s success.
  2. Be specific. Explain what you appreciate and why. Doing so shows a greater and more genuine interest in your employees’ successes. It helps them know what exactly they’re doing well and shows that you do take notice of their work.
  3. State your feelings. Express a deeper level of appreciation.  Doing so helps to create a culture of community and trust, so if employees have issues they feel comfortable discussing them.
  4. Reaffirm your support. Let employees know that they have your full support and show confidence in their abilities.  It can go a long way in helping them feel as though they’re providing meaningful contributions.

From a managerial perspective, what can you do to further create a culture of recognition to drive results?

  1. Create clear standards. Creating clear expectations for goals and providing direct feedback keeps people engaged and focused. Feedback is a type of encouragement and is fundamental to helping employees achieve goals.
  2. Expect the best. Understand the Pygmalion effect—that having positive expectations of others will create positive possibilities. People act according to expectations, so through words, body language, and tone make it clear that you expect the best from those around you, and chances are they’ll produce the results.
  3. Pay attention. Take the time to get out and observe those around you and take notice when people win. Listening to others with your eyes and your heart helps to build relationships and foster an environment of trust.
  4. Personalize recognition. Recognition isn’t nearly as impactful if it’s not personalized. It must feel sincere. Further, understand when and how individual employees respond best to recognition and provide it in the way that’s most meaningful to them.
  5. Celebrate together. Recognize teams and celebrate together. This helps to create bonds, build community, and achieve common goals.
  6. Be the example. Leaders must lead by example, as credibility lays the foundation for a culture of recognition. Be seen actively engaging in praise of those around you and see how the recognition starts to spread.

Creating a culture of praise and recognition can do a lot for engaging employees and encouraging them to keep moving forward toward their goals. It’s a relatively easy state to achieve, and the small investment you make is multiplied exponentially in terms of outcomes and rewards.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness.