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Heroes and Stars Among Us: The Power of Recognition

Heroes and Stars Among Us: The Power of Recognition

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 31
  • Learn how managers and employees can multiply heroic moments and foster a culture rich in recognition in this Q12 for Coaches podcast on item Q04.

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he's experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don't have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?

In this session, Mike talks about Q04 -- "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

Host Jim Collison: Mike, welcome back to another Called to Coach!

Mike McDonald: I love it, Jim, it's great to pick things up again.

JC: Before we get started, as of an hour ago, 19 million have found out their CliftonStrengths. We're pretty excited about that. OK, Mike, we're digging into Q04. It's my favorite question and has the ability to make enormous impact. Let's talk about it. Give us the basics.

MM: Yes, and congratulations to you, Jim Collison, and to all of the coaches listening in who represent 19 million. This is definitely a "recognition and praise" moment.

JC: Thank you. We started these broadcasts at 9 million, and to see 10 million [more] complete the assessment is pretty exciting. We're just scratching the surface. It's tough to do strengths interventions without an engagement index.

MM: The item itself, "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." It's incredibly powerful but also incredibly underutilized. We want to continue to integrate resources into what we do:

We continue to build off the outline Empirical, Emotional and Experiential -- what does this element look like and feel like, and what's the relevance to us personally?

First, I want to point out the SORTING Effect of the item. The "last seven days" part of the question makes people uncomfortable. But we know "seven days" matters and so we have to ask, "How does that actually happen?"

The motivational need behind this item is "Help Me See My Value." Only 3 in 10 strongly agree with this item in the U.S.

Q04 drives off of Q03. When we don't have the opportunity to do what we do best every day, then we obviously miss opportunities to generate performances that get us recognized. Workgroups for which Recognition and Praise is managed most effectively average higher quality, lower absenteeism (people like to come to work when they are recognized), and lower employee theft.

JC: Some organizations are hesitant to do creative recognition programs that cost money, but by not doing those, they are losing more in shrinkage. That alone would justify having an engagement instrument. I think we've seen anywhere from 20% to 60% (improvement) in shrinkage numbers. That's a dollars-and-cents deal. And absenteeism -- super easy to measure -- you're there, or you're not.

MM: Great point, Jim. I hadn't ever thought of it that way -- the economics of recognition and praise. I know of one company in which, if you were to dollarize employee theft, that amount would be large enough to be a Fortune 1,000 company.

65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace last year.

So here's the headline: Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they will leave their company in the next year. And these are not people you want to leave, but typically they are people you don't want to leave -- the stars, the top producers.

So a lot is at stake. It's not uncommon to find 20% to 30% of teams or workplaces in which employees say, "I have not received any praise at all in the past year. In fact, my best efforts are routinely ignored. So this is a big hurdle for us to clear.

"Stories propagate your culture." Think about what you're doing to promote mission, values and performance.

Heroes and Stars. If everyone has talent, at some point (daily, weekly), everyone should be a hero and everyone should be a star (delivering performance only they can deliver). Maybe our coaching and team leaders ought to be mass-producing the numbers of "stars" on our teams, and multiplying the number of heroic moments that they generate. Are we capturing those in a way that's meaningful and effective, and helping those influence our organizational and team behavior?

JC: If you listen to us on Theme Thursday, you know that Mike and I talk about this idea of an Ebenezer -- a biblical term for a pile of rocks, where the nation of Israel came back to remember some of the great things that had happened to them. And we use visual recognition in a similar way here at Gallup. … Recognition can't (just) be the manager's responsibility; it has to be the team's.

MM: Recognition gives us so many opportunities for culture and engagement to take on a physical form in a way that the other elements don't. We can't afford to miss those opportunities.

JC: Sometimes we default back to the idea that the manager has to give the recognition, but I think the manager has to create the space for recognition, a safe environment.

MM: We hear a lot of references to institutional knowledge and memory. When we think of Institutional knowledge, it is gained by organizations translating historical data into useful knowledge and wisdom. Memory depends upon the preservation of data and the analytical skills necessary for its effective use within the organization.

What are those proverbial corporate campfire stories that get passed down from generation to generation where we talk about those who did something extraordinary in our organization and as a result of hearing it, we changed our behavior?

In our coaching, our call to action for items Q03 and Q04 is, is our coaching creating stories with the expectation that everyone should be a star and everyone is mass-producing heroic moments based on their talent and ability. Maybe the most successful organizations are those who within Q03 and Q04 where great COACHING is CREATING great stories, CAPTURING great stories, and COMMUNICATING those stories out broadly to relevant audiences who want to learn from excellence, as well as creating a moment when the contributor achieved excellence in a way that we want duplicated.

JC: A good way to capture some of these stories is to ask, "What's the best recognition you've ever received?" The variety of answers to this is amazing. We have to ask whether we can share these stories we hear.

MM: That is maybe the best question to find out what the most effective and appropriate recognition is. But there's a strengths connection as well. How can we as coaches and team leaders use our own Top 5 to create meaningful and effective recognition? I don't want it to be more about what I enjoy than what the person enjoys, but this helps me expand my bandwidth of creativity. I would contend that strengths is the language of recognition.

JC: Eduardo in the chat room asks, "How would you suggest that a manager learn to give recognition?" I want to establish that it's the team's job to recognize, and the manager has to create a safe environment for recognition. How do you learn to do this right?

MM: Great question, Eduardo. As human beings, we're wired more for negative information than for positive. But a couple of answers to your question are "practice" and "space." We need to practice giving recognition better. And we need to create the space to do it and the opportunity and about giving recognition, and this becomes a team-level expectation.

Q04 is also a great way for a team leader to create trust among those who are actively disengaged and to move them to engaged.

In addition to the "What has been your best recognition," we can also ask how often people like to be recognized (at least once every 7 days, but there can be some variance in this), and from whom do they want to receive recognition.

JC: When I hire interns, if I ask for "the best feedback," it almost never leads to positive interactions; younger students sometimes have a hard time coming up with the best recognition. As the manager/coach, we can walk on a journey with them to discover what motivates them. Is it possible to give too much recognition?

MM: It's not. This is a barrier right out of the gate. I myself struggled as a new employee in the recognition-rich environment at Gallup. And as a team leader, I initially didn't give recognition well. I almost talked myself out of doing it at all because I was trying too hard to be authentic and to ensure that the recognition was earned. But once I figured it out and saw the effect on my team, I never wanted to look back.

I would encourage coaches of team leaders to use a recognition checklist (of every performance that would deserve recognition) over the course of a week, a month, a year, etc. And then pull out that list each week and make sure you give recognition to everyone on that list.

You can never give too much recognition if it is honest and deserved. There are three points relating to best practice recognition. It is:

  • Authentic. Recognition that feels genuine
  • Meaningful. Praise that highlights the value of the work and the person
  • Motivating. Recognition that matters most to the individual and is connected to the recipient emotionally, making them crave that recognition again

It's interesting to think about these "Dopamine parties" or "Dopamine parades" that we create that feeds a good addiction to recognition, creating a chemical imprint on the brain so the brain desires more of that. So when we wrap that around the right performance for the right reasons and the right delivery, it transforms a culture.

I think the "SMART" action planning or goal-setting approach (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, Timely) has a great application to recognition.

  • Specific: How detailed is the recognition to the performance being highlighted? Is it enough to help the recipient know what they should do again, and maybe do it better?
  • Measurable: Does it have metrics, stats, numbers, that show the power of the performance?
  • Action-Oriented: What was the impact the performance created, and the intentionality behind the impact? How did it move the team and organization forward?
  • Realistic: Can the recipient see a connection between the recognition and their performance? How aligned is the intensity of the recognition with the significance of the performance?
  • Timely: How close is the recognition to the event/performance?

JC: Mike, our time is coming to a close. Final thoughts and final resources?

MM: I wanted, first, to tie this in to our Community Well-Being item, which asks people whether they have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where they live in the past 12 months. So we see a craving and a desire to be noticed even in our Community Well-Being.

In schools, one of the key takeaways is that only 27% of U.S. parents strongly agreed that their child was recognized in the past week. So that's similar to the workplace, and shows that there is a lot of opportunity for recognition in schools -- and even on our part as parents. Maybe there's a call to action in that regard.

For students, in recent Gallup research, 31% of 5th through 12th graders strongly agree that they received recognition for doing good schoolwork in the past seven days. So whether it's within our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our schools, our faith communities, there is a lot of opportunity to release performance and outcomes that are meaningful through recognition.

The most effective managers always look for opportunities to recognize and praise individuals. This creates a workplace where individuals know the value of their work and the emotional reward that comes with it.

As a manager, you should routinely ask yourself:

  • Do I regularly praise my employees for their efforts?
  • Have I created an environment in which my employees are encouraged to recognize one another for doing good work?
  • Do I know how each employee likes to receive recognition? Given this knowledge, do I then individualize my approach to providing that recognition?
  • How often do I celebrate my team's success? Do I make it a priority?

Some resources -- and these can be oriented around the power of recognition to drive engagement:

Mike McDonald's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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