Monday, June 16, 2008

Recognition: How do you share Fame and Blame?

A while ago I wrote about Staff Turnover (here and here). In this post I'd like to look at something that you can do for the people on your team. And maybe with this you can help to provide a better environment, a better place to work at.

In some cultures not complaining is equivalent to praising someones performance. The Southwest of Germany is such a place (For those who are familiar with it: "Net g'motzt isch scho g'nug g'lobt").

In other cultures rewarding has take on almost the shape of an avalanche. New Zealand is such a place (Remember all the awards, prices, etc. that you got at school? In some schools there are more awards than students!).

In other cultures appraising each other can become a group decease. The United States appear to me sometimes like that (Ever heard of the group cheering at Wal-Mart?).

So regardless where you live there are cultural differences in terms of how recognition is used to motivate people. And as a leader you can make the difference by sharing the fame with your team, and keeping the blame away from your team (unless they really screwed up in which case you'll probably have a private session with them that you don't want to share outside of your team).

So is recognition about affection? I think these are two different things. People certainly want to be liked. And if they can choose they will work in a place where they and their work is appreciated.

Recognition, in my view, is not about expression affection. Expecting being recognized for a good performance or result is not seeking to be liked. I think people can even "survive" for a while if they are not given recognition explicitly. If that's your style, so be it. Maybe you express your recognition in other ways, e.g. by giving your people a day off, or by giving them stock options, or by asking them taking on tasks that are critical and important for the company and come with more responsibilities.

There are many different ways to express recognition without having to express affection. Some of them are even free. Or how expensive is it to say "Thank you"? How expensive is it to mention people who over years showed persistent high performance despite all obstacles, hung on to the project and the team, and in the end made it happen?

All of this depends a lot of your style. Expressing recognition is important to keep your team motivated. It is certainly not the only means and it certainly is not sufficient. And if you use low-cost tools like saying "Thank you!" you must ensure that you really mean it. If you don't have the credibility of your team, just don't.

An entirely different question is if you give recognition, e.g. by company wide announcement, but don't include the people who had critical roles for the success. If you include only the ones that you interact with most frequently, or if you reduce other people's contribution, don't be surprised if people won't be as motivated next time round. Again this has nothing to do with the need to be liked. It's about ensuring that recognition goes to the right people. And it's not about what you intended to say. It is about what actually did say.

So the questions are: How do you share fame and blame? How do you give recognition to your team and the people on your team?

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