Recognition is the No. 1 motivator

My predecessor and mentor at Tractor Supply preached the impact of sincerely recognizing the efforts of all employees. Over time, acknowledgement became a way of life for us. And today it is one of the key foundations of the company culture.

When you think about the happiest moments in your life, I’ll bet many of them relate to someone recognizing something you did well. The simple process of sharing a little gratitude for good work doesn’t take much time — and generally yields measurable benefit.

Making regular and sincere recognition part of your daily routine can lead to a healthier, happier culture. In that environment things typically get done better, on time and on budget. And it will certainly help you earn the respect and admiration of your team and your associates. Here are some ways to start a recognition practice at your organization:

Make it a habit: During the workday start recognizing performance as often as you can with simple gestures like a positive pat on the back. At day’s end, a sincere “nice work today, Joe” goes along way.

Keep it sincere: One word of caution about recognition: Always be honest and sincere. Make sure your recognition is for real accomplishment that is well understood by all. False or fake praise can boomerang on you.

Talk it up: When your team achieves a new goal, it’s time to share the good news. Gather your crew, remind them about what they’ve accomplished and then high-five it all around. Never wait to celebrate accomplishments.

Write a note: A thoughtful handwritten note shows that you took an extra moment to recognize the impact of a great performance. Your people will cherish such notes and may keep them for a long time. I have two boxes of personal notes I received over the years!

Send it home: Whether it’s a simple note or corporate award, try sending it home. Acknowledgements from work that arrive on a doorstep get special attention from family, which can help build stronger bonds between work and family life.

Celebrate big successes: When the group accomplishes a larger, long-term goal, it’s time to celebrate. It could be a pizza dinner, maybe some time off or a visit from a senior executive. Do whatever it takes to make your people feel good about coming back to work every day.

Present awards: Formal awards at company meetings can do wonders for team morale. You can celebrate with plaques, gifts, even trips — whatever makes sense for your culture. Being a little unpredictable with awards can make this approach even more exciting.

Find a signature “smile”: My personal trademark for recognition is giving “smiley faces,” in the form of stickers or an emoji on an email. I learned this trick from my wife a long time ago. It sounds silly, but it works. People can’t help but light up when they see a smile. It’s just a different form of appreciation.

We generally think of a boss recognizing an employee, but acknowledgement can work in other ways. In a team, anyone can pat someone else on the back for an accomplishment. Individuals will likely gain some additional respect, and morale might get a little better, too. There’s no downside. You can also give your boss a little credit. Just be careful not to overdo it.

However it plays out, practicing regular recognition for good performance helps to build a strong company culture. If you pat me on the back for good work today, the odds are that tomorrow I may try to do even better. As a leader, this sure sounds like a winning formula.

published Nashville Business Journal

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