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Recognition cultures are energized, proactive cultures, explains Marsha Egan

If you want to work in an energized and motivated environment with people who love what they do, ask yourself how much of a recognition culture you have in your organization.

Recognition and appreciation are not “once and done” events. To have a recognition culture in your organization, you need to do it regularly and often. People at all levels of the organization, from the file room to the board room, regularly thank and appreciate others for notable deeds.

The difference between culture and procedure is huge. It is a procedure to have a performance bonus program; it is a culture to have people consistently high-fiving each other, sincerely thanking others, sending congratulatory emails, and appreciating people publicly in meetings over even the smallest accomplishments.

Most people in business or volunteer organizations agree that they would benefit from a recognition culture. Recognition is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to motivate and energize volunteers and employees. And… it is mostly free! Why, then, can so few boast of this attribute?

It might be because showing recognition is an “important but not urgent” action – the crises of the day can get in the way of someone taking a moment to appreciate an accomplishment. It might be because the people in charge believe that their employees are well paid, and that is all the motivation they need. It might just be because they forget.

I challenge you to make recognition a habit. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel doing it. And the more recognition you infuse into the organization, the more positive motivation and energy you can generate within the organization. It ultimately circles back and can energize YOU!

The most impactful praise and recognition is specific, rather than general. Specifically recounting the worthy act adds strength to your appreciation efforts and enables repetition. Instead of saying a mere “Thanks for your help,” a more specific “Thanks for putting all those documents in order and creating folders where we can easily find them” is much stronger.

Sometimes, the biggest challenge is to “just do it.”

Here Are Some Ideas You Can Use:

  • Set a brief time each day to reflect on who accomplished a noteworthy deed or helped you, even a little bit. By doing this, you can “force” yourself to get in the habit of recognizing people. I like to do this at the end of my day.
  • Send an email or leave a handwritten note for the person who deserves the “attagal” or “attaguy.”
  • Start your meetings with sincere appreciation for even the smallest accomplishments.
  • Compliment people, mentioning specific results, in front of others.
  • Publish a “hats off” column in your newsletter; encourage everyone in the organization to contribute.
  • Tell a person’s manager what a great job they did, or how they helped you.
  • Compliment your executive for a task well done.
  • Celebrate the completion of big projects.

This works at home, too. When was the last time you thanked or appreciated your partner or children for doing a challenging task? Or a small task?

If you remind yourself regularly to actively appreciate the behavior you want to see repeated, you’ll change your habits and embrace recognition and appreciation in your daily routine. And it IS contagious.

The more you recognize and appreciate behavior, the greater chance that it will be repeated.

And a word of extreme caution… every instance of your shared appreciation MUST be sincere. People can spot insincere comments a mile away. Praise and appreciation must come from the heart. That means say it or share it only when you feel it and mean it.

Recognition cultures are energized, proactive cultures. In today’s world, we need to move forward quickly. And recognition can supply the energy for that effort. It all goes to the bottom line, doesn’t it?

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Florida-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is the author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at, where you can also read her blog. To listen ... (Read More)

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