No.1 Way to Motivate? Recognize Good Work


March 18, 2011
Nashville Business Journal


Just look into the eyes of someone who has been recognized for a job well done. They shine. As my mentor and former CEO Tom Hennesy always said: Recognition is the number one motivator of people.

As a business leader, if you consistently recognize good behavior, you are likely get a lot more of the same behavior. A sincere pat on the back takes just a few seconds and can have enormous impact on attitude and performance—and there is absolutely no risk involved.

Give—and receive—earnest recognition. If you have the opportunity to congratulate someone in front of others, it has even greater significance. Offering a team member sincere appreciation for hard work will in turn earn you greater respect as a leader and, ultimately, enhance your image among other employees.

When face-to-face communications are difficult, for example if you are responsible for the operations in multiple locations, make it a habit to call the managers and supervisors who achieve big successes. You can also use your call wisely to gather key business feedback. Start your conversation by discussing day-to-day operations, and conclude by congratulating the manager and the whole team. Managers will be excited to hear from the boss, and you will learn a few things about how to better support your operations in other locations.

Don’t be afraid to celebrate success. Meetings are a perfect time to recognize and celebrate success. Even in a small, routine meeting you can usually find something—and someone—to recognize. When you start off on a positive note meetings often run more smoothly. Likewise, large sales gatherings should always be a time for recognizing the best performers. The more you take the appropriate time to celebrate individual successes, the more people will strive to achieve that same level of success.

Share success through storytelling. Telling success stories is an engaging method of recognition and education. Get in the habit of passing on success stories at every opportunity, and if your team is spread out geographically, circulate those stories in writing. When you share success stories, you are recognizing both an individual for accomplishment and a larger team achievement. In addition, others will learn from the success story about how they might achieve a similar result.

We all win by giving recognition. First, everyone feels more positive in a recognition-driven culture. Second, recognition reinforces desired behavior. Finally, leaders who provide sincere recognition earn the respect and admiration of the whole team.


Joe Scarlett, joe@joescarlett.com
Retired Chairman of Tractor Supply Company
Founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute

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