Think of the best recognition you’ve ever received.
Who said what, and why was it meaningful?
Twice this year someone has told me “I am proud of you.” Both times, I was surprised to find myself really choked up. My gratitude reaction was so strong that I got to thinking about why. I wanted to understand what it was about THIS recognition that made an impact, so I could do a better job of giving THAT kind of recognition to others.
Who: In both circumstances, I had a deep respect for the person who said it.
What: What I had accomplished was important to me, and it felt wonderful that others were noticing.
The Words: The words were powerful.
But What If Appreciation Doesn’t Come Naturally?
Recognition is one of those leadership skills that comes more naturally to some than to others. I had one senior leader who understood how important recognition is to building a great team culture. And, who confided, “Karin, I think I’m missing that gene!”
If you (or a member of your team) are missing that gene too, here are some tips for making recognition easier.
The Right Words at the Right Time
There is something about being recognized at just the right time, by just the right person, with just the right words. When done well, those words can stay with us forever.
And so, inspired by these moments, I reached out to my online communities of leadership thinkers, coaches, and writers and asked:
“What words make the biggest impact when providing recognition?”
I got lots of inspired and heart-felt responses from many people across multiple groups. There is real power in the online leadership thinking community. Several leaders weighed in that the most important part is the specific examples, acknowledging the details of the contribution. Others shared the value of a handwritten note that is “simple, timely, and personal.” Several rightfully warned that people are motivated by different things, and trying to project our preferences on others is a mistake.
The most dialogue came from the LinkedIn Organizational Development and Training Forum.
Sara Ting raised the consideration of culture and how that impacts how we want to be recognized, and how we approach recognizing others.
Marian Thier discussed the psychological impact of our words: for example, “I’m proud of you” could connote a parental approval relationship, while “well done” sounds more masculine and non-specific, “like an athletic coach.”
Dayrl Cowie provided possibilities for meaningful words based on personality types:
Inspiring Personalities (e.g. sales people): “That was awesome”, “I really owe you one” (fun, give & take type words)
Commanding Personalities (e.g. directors): “Nice job” “That’s why you’re the man” (ego, self-esteem)
Supporting Personalities: “Wow everyone loved that” “I really like what you did for everyone” (Everybody loves you)
Analyzing Personalities: “That was brilliant” “How did you do that?” “Way to stand up for what you believe in” (How’d you do that? or, congratulations on moral grounds)”
The majority weighed in with the words and phrases that have meant the most to them, or that they tend to rely on.
Here are a few of my favorite recognition power phrases.
Recognition Power Phrases
- I trust you
- Great idea! Let’s go with it.
- You have made a significant contribution to ___.
- You really helped me out
- You’re a difference-maker
- You are a gem
- This is one of the best__I’ve seen
- We could learn a lot from __ about this
- We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for ___
- ___ has set a new standard of excellence for us all to strive toward
- Glad to have you as part of OUR team
- You are doing exactly what you were meant to do in this life
Words That Stand Alone
What would you add? What recognition power words make the biggest impact for you?