I’ve received many certificates of appreciation, and other similar items of recognition over the years. At one point, I had acquired so many that I purchased a binder for them.
Awhile back, I tossed most of the certificates during a move. Not because I wasn’t grateful for the recognition, but because most of them simply weren’t that meaningful any longer. While I know the intentions behind all of them were good, I rarely remembered much about the recognition beyond the piece of paper.
I know many people who have acquired a lot of certificates this way. Sadly, a certificate of appreciation is often used as a substitute for showing sincere gratitude, instead of for its intended use: a reminder of what was said.
Certificates of appreciation are wonderful to receive, but only if they come with something else:
Gratitude that sounds genuine and sincere.
In order to greatly improve the chances that your well-intended gratitude will sound sincere to the other party, follow these three steps that we teach in the Dale Carnegie Course:
1. Know and Use Their Name
While this might sound obvious, I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I was handed a certificate with a group of other people and the person handing it out didn’t even know everybody’s name. Or, the name was pronounced so poorly that it was apparent there was no real relationship between the person giving the recognition and the person receiving it.
If you’re recognizing someone you don’t know, get their name in advance. Find out how it’s pronounced. If you have printed a certificate, be sure spelling was checked and the preferred version of the individual’s preferred name was used. If you don’t know, ask (people dig that).
People notice their names more than anything else. Dale Carnegie reminds us that,
A person’s name, is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
If you struggle with names, here is 8-minutes of audio that will help.
2. Identify a Personality Trait
Be specific on exactly what you are expressing gratitude for. Personality traits are positive characteristics that make people valuable. Identify a single trait that the other party has exhibited which has added value to your organization or you.
Resist the temptation to be broad or wordy. It can sound insincere to say, “Ruth does so many things well that it’s hard to nail down just one of her great skills. She’s just wonderful and people love her wonderful customer service, organization, positive attitude, and can-do spirit.” That’s too much. It’s unlikely you can back all that up in a single interaction.
Rather, be specific and start with, “Ruth, I’m recognizing you for your greatattitude with our customers.”
3. Give Evidence
This step makes the biggest difference on how sincere you sound. It’s also the step most often missed.
Anybody can track down someone’s name and tell them that they have a great attitude. In some cases, that’s exactly what happens without much additional thought. This still risks sounding generic and insincere.
Instead, cite evidence of a person’s work that shows you are genuinely aware of how they helped. Briefly recap the story or example that specifically speaks to the trait you’ve identified. Only someone who actually knows the specifics of how a person helped can do this well.
By all means, print the certificate of appreciation as a reminder of the moment, but focus your time and attention on what you’ll actually say. I’ve keep the certificates when this was done well for me.