Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What are you recognizing and reinforcing?

Eric Harvey said “Without a doubt, providing recognition is one of the best ways (if not the best way) to build and maintain superior performance. The reason for that is quite simple: reinforced behavior gets repeated.”
What are you reinforcing and recognizing?
How are you reinforcing and recognizing performance?
I remember a very early experience in my first leadership role more than twenty years ago, that highlighted the different ways in which employees like (or don’t like to) be recognized. An employee had made an incredible contribution in getting a new project up and running smoothly. I wrote this individual a letter of recognition and thanks and cc’d it to her personnel file, and had also made mention (okay – it was a big mention) at a staff meeting. In talking later with this employee I discovered that she found this quite embarrassing and was uncomfortable, which of course was important learning for me. The conversation that ensued over lunch that day was even more enlightening. The team was talking with this employee about her accomplishment and several staff thanked me in front of her, for recognizing their colleague with the team present. The team thought this was most important so that they could also help, understand and celebrate their team member’s accomplishments. What was my learning?
1) Different people prefer different types of recognition (in this case if I had simply asked the individual if she would mind that I recognized her accomplishments in front of the team, I believe her comfort level would have been higher. I discovered it was more the “surprise” of the announcement vs. the announcement itself, that embarrassed her);

2) It is important to find ways to help teams celebrate the accomplishments of the team, and perhaps their individual team member accomplishments as well;

3) Recognized performance does get repeated – after this lunch discussion, I noticed the team members acknowledging one another’s performance, thanked each other more often, and that individual performance efforts were recognized.

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