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Tips for Using Recognition to Develop Top Performers

It's been said that you can get where you want in your career by helping other people get where they want in their careers. This is why leaders must recognize the people that make it happen. Recognition allows leaders to send performers the message, "You are getting where you want to go." This message is heard by the performer's co-workers, boss, friends, family and everyone else in the room (or that hears about it later).

Get the message out and keep your top performers on the right track by using these recognition tips for leaders.

Leaders that do not recognize will fail. The leader that recognizes will develop leadership in others, and take them to a point that they would not reach on their own.

Leaders need to be directly involved in the process. Don't just delegate to marketing or HR.

Recognition needs to be given a context that the leader creates. Decide where the group or individual needs to go, then reward them accordingly.

Recognition awards need to be given by the leader. Describe the award and give specific examples of what the recipient did to earn the award. 178% of quota is not good enough! Tell about the demanding customer, the flaming hoop that was navigated, or the competition that got beat.

Awards can't be stale. The same old plaque does not work, change it up and make it fresh!

Don't fail to recognize your staff! You may need to cut your budget and wait until things get better to get the bronze sculpture, but you can't just skip doing the recognition until then.

Let awards be agents of change. Recently I met with a customer that was experiencing tremendous change and needed employees to act differently. I suggested that in the next North American meeting they recognize the people that had already begun to "get it" with some special awards.

Recognize spontaneously! Don't feel that it needs to be announced way ahead of time. When someone deserves to be recognized, just do it!

Don't worry about people that are not doing a good job getting their feelings hurt. Tough for them! You will undermine your entire operation if you don't recognize people doing well because of the people that are not doing well.

Play an active part in award giving as the leader. It's worth repeating! Be inspiring! Other up-and-coming staff will want to be there too.

Don't let people take their awards and hide them. Get mileage by making it a rule that they must be displayed at least for awhile. This will encourage the people that feel that displaying their awards is "cocky." Follow up with a voice mail or e-mail to express again how pleased you are.

Have winners make a speech. (Too many people skip this, and lack of time is a bad excuse.) The speech should include a thank you, a description of what the award means, advice to others, and should end with another thank you.

In addition to sending strong messages about performance, your recognition skills will also send a message about who you are as a leader. You'll send the message that you are a developer of people—someone who gets excited about others' personal progress and success.