I walked to my car the other day for my drive home from work with a spring in my step. I wouldn’t say that I was skipping, but my heart certainly was. I started the car and the next thing I knew I was pulling up to my street — at least in my mind, my normally tedious commute lasted less time than it takes to push the start button.
I went into work tired and even a little grumpy for no particular reason. I went home smiling from ear-to-ear. What turned my day around? What changed in the span of a few hours?
A bonus? Nah. A new job? Nope, same one I’ve had. A new suit? Nope, same rumpled clothes I’ve been wearing.
I flew home that night, my feet barely touching the ground, because of a few simple words of appreciation. Another manager had congratulated my team on meeting a key deliverable. That’s it, that’s all.
But those words meant as much to me as a new bonus.
What drives you?
For some, money means everything. For others, a corner office or a prestigious job title. For me, it’s all about the recognition. Oh yes, I love payday or an unexpected boost in my paycheck as much as the next person. I count on my salary for family obligations; college bills; braces for my youngest son; but in the grand scheme of things, praise has always gone farther for me than any other incentive.
When I heard the manager’s praise, I’m sure my face was stone-faced. Inside, though, I was mush. We all have a need to belong. I can relate at least in part with actress Sally Field, who when presented with the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in “Places in the Heart” at the Academy Awards in 1985 said: “You like me, you really like me.”
Okay, that’s definitely going over-the-top, but I still crave feedback and recognition for a job well done.
In high demand
As I mentioned, we all seek some form of recognition, but amazingly it’s still a rare commodity. Criticism and negative feedback come in ample supply; hard-earned, well deserved praise less so. And let me stop right there and state clearly that I’m not talking about faux praise or the participation trophy that comes for just being a part of the team. They are meaningless. Instead, I’m referring to the “thank you from the bottom of my heart praise” that drives growth, improvement, productivity, and satisfaction.
Giants in the business world have written countless books on the best ways to give recognition and make workers feel valued and engaged. They offer explicit details like making recognition specific and personal; making it authentic; making it frequent, and how best to offer it in both individual and public settings.
The right thing to do
I’ve seen it done well and not so well. Recognition has become a cottage industry of sorts, but I still come back to something my sixth grade teacher taught me years ago. He thanked me for some simple job like cleaning the erasers or taking out the garbage can.
I remember asking him why the thank you. He leaned over my desk so he could look me in the eyes and said, “It takes little to no effort to say thank you or give someone a smile. If it costs so little, but means so much to someone, then why not?”
I don’t remember much about diagramming sentences or the math problems we spent hours discussing that year, but I remember how his thank you made me feel.
With that lesson in mind, thank you for reading my blog!