Do You Recognize Them?


In the State of Michigan, as many of you know, we are in the throes of a profound budget crisis.  Belts are being tightened so far that we’re punching new holes.  On my radio show last week, I talked with Chester Elton, author of the best selling book, The Carrot Principle about how you do employee recognition when you’re absolutely flat-out broke.  I told him: we don’t have the money and even if we found it, it would look bad to spend it on recognition.  His answer bears repeating.

He said never underestimate the value of a hand-written note.  In our virtual, high-tech, e-this and e-that world, the personal note has only gained in value.  He also argued persuasively that great recognition happens all the time, at the scene and at the moment of good work.  Close in time matters.  Sometimes the praise is not spoken, but has to do with actions that confer status on someone you want to recognize.  So for instance, Chester recommended bringing a good performer to a high-level meeting, allowing them to network with and contribute to “the higher ups.” 

That simple suggestion reminded me of ways that I had seen bosses multiply their staffs loyalty by quite literally recognizing them, i.e., by seeing them:

·         Congressman Levin always introduced me and my colleagues on his staff who were traveling with him – to the audiences to whom he was speaking.  He literally recognized us in the crowd, and by doing so others literally recognized us.

·         Years ago County Executive Ed McNamara surprised me when he invited me to present a report I had worked on for him, rather than doing it himself.  When I was done he called me in his office and offered a tried and true form of recognition: he told me I did a good job.  Better than that he recognized something I could do better, and he gave me advice I have never forgotten, “don’t say ‘we should do X and Y,’ Mr. McNamara told me, but say ‘We will be doing X and Y,’ and then make it happen. 

Sometimes great recognition – which spurs loyalty and generates energy – flows with total simplicity from just paying close attention.  Paying attention is a great way to

Lead with your best self,