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Moving On…. The Art of Recognition

“The human Spirit is nurtured by praise, as much as a seedling is nurtured by the soil, the water and the sun.” ~ Mario Fernandez

It has been said that what builds a successful business is satisfied customers, one customer at a time. There are only satisfied customers if there are satisfied employees. And it’s human nature that an employee will never treat customers better than they are being treated themselves. Southwest Airlines, which I think we will all agree is a success story, has always said that their employees are their customers and deserve to be treated as such. This example should tell us something. The question is what are we not doing that Southwest is doing.

Today’s managers and leaders recognize that their people are their most important assets and invest in those assets. Whether that investment is in listening, education, coaching, benefits and/or recognition. The employee knows they are valued and respected. Just as an oil change is an investment in the longevity of your car, investing in your employee is an investment in the success of your company (regardless of size of your company). Finding and training a new employee (or client/customer) cost much more than retaining a good employee in the first place.

Perhaps one way we can take this discussion to an even higher level, is to consider your employees as investors in the company rather than assets or customers.

One of the most simple and yet powerful ways to invest in your employee or client is recognition. Why is recognition important? A couple of reasons; one is motivation and another is need satisfaction. Dr. Abraham Maslow provided a theory on motivation, which essentially says we are motivated by our needs and it is this hierarchy of needs that controls our behaviors. First by our need to survive (food, water, shelter) then by our basic human needs — 4 of which are:

The need for Security; to feel safe

The need for Recognition, what I do is important to others

The need for Acceptance, who I am is important to others

The need for New Experiences

I want to be clear here that I am not talking complimenting or shallow praise. It is imperative that you show a genuine interest in what you employee does and who that employee is. And they CAN tell the difference. Just think about it feels to you.

Hal Rosenbluth said, “The highest achievable level of service comes from the heart, so the company that reaches people’s hearts will provide the very best service.” (Think of the things Southwest does to connect with people’s heart) I personally notice in my Moving On newsletters that the ones that tap into the reader’s heart receive many more responses than the ones with business tips. Why is this? People remember it you when you ‘touch’ them — when you connect from your own heart. This connection feels good — they feel recognized and like there is someone out there who understands them. Therefore they feel accepted.

According to Jim Harris, author of Getting Employees to Fall in Love With Your Company, heart power is at the very core of any successful organization. Without a vibrant beating heart any business will die. This applies whether you are a company of 4000 or a company of one. According to Harris, three things are crucial:

A vibrant vision — employees (or clients) want to know what you stand for

Work/Life Balance — you shouldn’t have to go home exhausted

Fun and Celebration — a positive environment, genuine appreciation and the celebration of success will make coming to work a joy

The art of recognition is about making people feel important, genuinely important. Let’s take it from a very successful entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who said, “There are two things people want more than sex and money. Recognition and praise.” That about sums it up, don't you think?

Are you giving enough genuine recognition?


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