Most leaders give employee recognition based on what they "think" their team wants. Instead of wasting resources on ineffective recognition strategies...just ask.

Years ago, I was recognized for a big project within my organization. The recognition was an opportunity to present my project at a senior leader meeting. Someone said, "Ben, you know this isn't a spot's a search light". Suddenly this did not feel like recognition. It was an interrogation.

I did not mind updating the executive team on my project but positioning it as recognition did not seem authentic.

The company paid for me to travel to the meeting as well as used the expensive time of the executives, all in the name of "recognition". Instead of motivating me to reach even higher, it had the opposite affect.

So, are you recognizing employees on your team in a way that rewards their great work and inspires them to strive for greater results, or are you making them uncomfortable so they won't go the extra mile next time?

I asked, Candace Nicolls, Senior Director of Human Resources at SnagaJob, about this issue and she had a simple, yet powerful idea:

"Don't take a 'one size fits all' approach to recognition. It can come across as insincere or ineffective. We encourage our leaders to actually ASK- learn about your teams, what drives them, and how they like to be recognized."

Here are suggestions for implementing this important idea for your team:

Step 1: Make a reminder to identify recognition opportunities

In the midst of a busy day it is difficult to remember to spot recognition opportunities for your team. Put a reminder in your calendar or on desk to proactively identify recognition opportunities.

Step 2: Ask their recognition preference

People love recognition, but how they prefer to be recognized may differ. Ask their recognition preference. If this is first time they have been recognized, make sure to have a mental list you can offer of things from which they can choose. Note that even just asking their preference is a form of recognition. Nicolls shared,

""We recently did this in one of my teams, and the answers were everything from "Please don't, it makes me uncomfortable" to "I would love a shout out at the company Townhall" and "Cash!"."

Step 3: Be prepared to counter

Just in case you can't deliver on their preferred form of recognition, be prepared to counter with a different suggestion.

Nicolls shared the result of her taking this approach plus an additional benefit,

"It's easy because it takes the guesswork out of it, it's fun because you're getting to know your teams personally, and it's effective because it's giving you the tools you need to give them what they're going to appreciate."

Try recognizing your team for their hard work with these three steps. Notice the greater impact your recognition has on your team's morale and productivity.