5 Steps to a Life-Changing Culture of Thanks
Sure, your people need to be paid for their labor, but that's not what drives their performance. People want to be appreciated for the good work they do, and they want to know that you both notice and care about their contributions and them as people.
How do you do that? By creating a culture of thanks. Keep the following five tips in mind and you won't simply amplify the gratitude, you'll change people's lives.
1. Praise Publicly (Most of the Time)
Most people prefer to receive praise publicly, in full view of their peers and co-workers. It makes them proud when their work colleagues know that they're being singled out for recognition when they performed well. And it's good for your organization because it demonstrates to your people that hard work and good performance are both visible to and appreciated by management.
Keep in mind, however, that some employees prefer to stay out of the spotlight and not be recognized in front of their colleagues. If that's the case, praise them privately, in their workspace, your office, or some other less-public location.
2. Speak From Your Heart
Only reward your employees when you sincerely believe they deserve recognition and it comes from your heart. Avoid false praise because your people will see right through your insincerity, and that will marginalize the recognition. They may even question your motives, seeing the reward more as an act of self-promotion on your part rather than a genuine celebration of their achievement.
When praising publicly, focus on the praise and the positive feelings of the moment, and save other departmental news and updates for another time. Especially avoid the temptation to combine your praise with feedback about what needs to be improved moving forward. That would wipe out any good feelings you’ve created with the reward.
3. Be Specific
Employees want to know what they're doing right, so when you praise them cite their specific accomplishments rather than a vague acknowledgement of a job generally well done. Instead of, "Thanks for the fabulous job you’re doing!" go with, "I see that you exceeded your sales goal by 40 percent today and you're now on track to have your best month ever. Congratulations!" Remember: The behavior you reward is the behavior you'll get more of.
4. Tailor the Reward
People are motivated by different things: money, time off, promotion. To reward effort you believe has surpassed expectations, consider compensation that is both meaningful and beneficial to that particular employee. Avoid projecting what you think is relevant; instead, do your best to find out what really drives your employees.
5. Don't Wait
It's particularly important to reward employees as soon after their accomplishment as possible. Doing so not only shows your people that you're paying attention to everything that's going on in the company but also that you truly care.
If an employee discovers a more efficient way to compile monthly reports, for example, acknowledge the effort as soon as you notice it. Otherwise, you run the risk of the employee forgetting what the accomplishment even was.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.