Saturday, January 12, 2008

Managing by Carrots--Are You Doing It Right?

Recognizing and rewarding employees is an integral function of the leader and manager. As someone who is internally motivated, I overlooked opportunities to recognize others in the past, but the article below, reprinted with permission from Adrian Gostick and Potentials Magazine, made me rethink the purpose of recognition and how to do it right.

Several years ago, I completed a nomination for one of my colleagues for her volunteer services within the community. When I submitted the nomination up the chain-of-command, the Director looked up at me from behind her desk and said, "Thanks. I meant to do this but ran out of time." The problem is I was a lieutenant taking the time to recognize the activities of a fellow lieutenant and the director was a captain, our immediate supervisor.

If you are truly taking care of your people, how can you possibly run out of time to recognize their good works?

The only praise that doesn't work is the hollow praise of "Good job." It doesn't take much to personalize it and to let the recipient know exactly what the "good job" constitutes. The phrase that pays says, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

Recognition without specifics can be worse than no recognition at all
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The next time your young child, grandchild or niece brings home a Rorschach painting from school, try an experiment. Instead of patting her on the head and saying, “Aren’t you just the best little artist,” try talking about the specifics of the painting.

“Why did you use red here?” “What have you drawn here?” “What action is going on in this area?”

When you praise the child and hang the painting on the refrigerator, use specifics such as, “I love how your flowers are turning toward the sun; that’s very observant.” Or, “You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen scarier blue alien bugs.” We guarantee that your little one will light up to such specific praise and remember it for a much longer time.

Author and scholar David Cherrington gives a fun demonstration of why such specificity is so important in his book, Rearing Responsible Children.” Cherrington says of one father he observed, “He expressed appreciation to each of his three children individually in the presence of his wife. The father’s comment was a simple statement: ‘I just want you to know how much I appreciate everything you do.’ (The father supposed, like many managers, that any kind of praise would have a positive impact.)

“After he made the comment and left, his wife asked each child why the father had expressed appreciation. The 10-year-old replied, ‘I guess he must be upset because I didn’t get the dishes done like I was supposed to.’ The 13-year-old replied, ‘I don’t know. I guess he was just feeling sentimental.’ The 15-year-old said, ‘Who knows what he meant. I don’t think he understands what’s going on around here.’”

Say what you mean
In the work world, we’ve all known bosses who have fired out glibly, “Hey buddy, you’re doing a great job,” or “I appreciate all you do,” or “You sure look busy.” Unfortunately, these hollow phrases often leave employees wondering, “Does this guy have any idea what I really do around here?”

“Expressing appreciation in general, unspecified terms fails to communicate what the person did right and often appears insincere,” says Cherrington. Instead, when giving praise, describe the great behavior, why it was helpful, and say thanks. It’s that easy.

By taking a few minutes to prepare, and by using a few helpful techniques, your day-to-day recognition moments (and your formal recognition events) can do much more than simply thank employees for their contributions; they can enhance working relationships and increase feelings of loyalty and commitment.

No secret intelligence
To ensure that you’ve remembered everything, consider using the following mnemonic device: CIA – the Company (and department), the Individual and the Award. To help recall this acronym, remember that a good presentation takes a little bit of investigative work.

Company: Be prepared to talk about the company and team goals. You’ll want to reiterate why this is a great place to work (your success, your history, exciting changes, superior quality, etc.).
At FedEx, for example, managers use the recognition presentation as a time to talk about their values of people, service and profit.

Individual: Relate specifically what the individual did to earn this award or recognition and how this achievement helps fulfill your team and company goals. To get the most impact, except with very shy recipients, you’ll want to invite co-workers to talk about the person’s qualities, creativity, dedication and specific work achievements.

Award: Finally, talk about what you are presenting to your employee – whether a formal award for service or performance or a more informal award. If it’s a formal award, talk about the symbolism incorporated into the item – the gold company logo or emblem, the engraving, etc.

Never bad timing
The great thing about carrots is that they are always in season. When times are good in your company, effective presentations will give you a chance to celebrate and reflect. Unlike monetary rewards that dry up when times are tight, carrots can be used during downturns to bring you closer together and give you hope that better times lie ahead.

By making the presentations public, you not only make the person being recognized feel appreciated, but also inspire those who are in attendance. In fact, a great presentation should get people asking themselves, “What memorable or noteworthy things have I done for the company?”

Here’s an example of how it’s done right: Grocery store chain Festival Foods in Onalaska, WI, invites customers and employees to “huddle up” for recognition moments. Twice a year, the company brings in all store directors for hands-on training and meetings called “Festival College.”

After the training, leaders from the company offices go to stores for regular presentations – not only to ensure that recognition is being done right, but to get involved themselves and lead by example. As Festival Foods President Dave Skogen says, “While it’s crucial to have the best quality products and the cleanest, most attractive facility, ultimately it’s employee attitude that brings customers back.”

Adrian Gostick is director of marketing and corporate communications for the O.C. Tanner Recognition Company ( Chester Elton is national director of performance sales for O.C. Tanner. This article was excerpted from their book The 24-Carrot Manager: A remarkable story of how a leader can unleash human potential (Gibbs Smith, 2002).

If you don't have time to read, consider listening to their podcasts:


D.C. Confidential said...

Just noticed your comment today about Penzey's Spices over on my blog. Sorry to be so slow on the noticing, but thank you for stopping by.

Your blog intrigues me and I'm coming back later tonight to read more. I've been trying to figure out how to be more effective in my dealings with bosses, etc., and I think you have some real nuggets of wisdom here, from what I've scanned so far.

Thanks again for stopping by. Hope you'll visit again!

Literanista said...

Hi, I'm interested in sending you a book to review. Please contact me.