As I reflected on some of the happiest moments in my lifetime, I would have to say it wasn’t the goal shattering accomplishments that shaped what I did or who I would become. It was those almost silent, seemingly insignificant occurrences that made all the difference.

Going back to the age of 3, I can remember the exhilaration of finally learning how to fold my hands with my fingers on the inside so when you turned it over and chanted “here’s the church and here’s the steeple, look inside and here’s the people” as I wiggled all my fingers giggling and laughing that I could do something I practiced over and over. Perhaps for you it was when you learned how to tie your shoelaces?

Later, it was hearing from family members who enjoyed and complimented the singing and performing with my sisters, and on to the piano recitals, band and orchestra performances and eventually being in the school plays. As you think back to your early years, what are some of those precious moments you felt joy over an achievement you practiced?

Why Is Recognition and Reward Important?

“We can not underestimate the power of being recognized and validated as the basis of learning who we are in the world and experiencing what is acceptable or not.” - Delyse Legdard

According to Harvard University article from their Faculty of Arts and Sciences, “We all… appreciate when others recognize our contributions and achievements. Recognition serves as a tool for reinforcing the behaviors that drive an organization to excellence and gives a vital boost to employees’ engagement that has a ripple effect that reaches beyond the recipient.”

Many of us experienced recognition in Elementary school where we received gold stars for good behavior. Or in my case when I played a French horn solo well I was put in first chair. What we were learning was how to feel valued. Even in the home, when we helped with family projects or caring for siblings, our parents fed our basic human need for love with their words of appreciation.

“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” – Dale Carnegie

Studies have proven that appreciation and recognition are major factors that motivate employees to work harder and aim higher. “…Never underestimate the power inherent in executive recognition. It’s a potent weapon in your motivation arsenal, provided it’s used in moderation and at the right time.” – Erin Capobianco, CEO Sq1

How Important Is Recognition for Children?

Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore writes, “Kids want to please their parents. That sense of connection is powerfully motivating. Praise your kids when you mean it, but be careful about how you praise; focus on effort and growth more than outcome. Also, when they hit the home run or land the lead in the school play, be careful that your pleasure doesn’t swamp theirs, we want the excitement to be theirs.”

Whether at home or at work, it takes a commitment to be mindful of the opportunities to express appreciation or praise to those we interact with each day. Granted, different personality types seem to be more naturally aware of these instances, yet it makes all the difference to the person whose efforts go unnoticed. So here are a few helpful tips.

5 Ways Leaders Rock Recognition – Forbes/Leadership
  1. In the Moment – as much as possible be timely. Catch people doing exemplary work and acknowledge their efforts… be specific, descriptive and measured.
  2. In context – recognition is most effective when it’s given in the context of a larger goal… this matters
  3. Appropriate in volume/scale – recognition should match effort and results, or it loses meaning. 
  4. Authentic, not automatic – you have to mean it when you give recognition. 
  5. Tied to their perception of value – people know when they’re valued, and should have a good idea of their value to the organization. Treat people as valued team members, not as numbers.
“The power of recognition is one of the strongest forces for stimulating human and social action. Yes, recognition is a powerful motivator – to those who receive it as well as those who observe it.” – Lowell Milken