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5 Immediate Ways to Recognize People

A few weeks ago, I received this in an email from a Carnegie Coach listener:

I would like some tips on how to do some reward and recognition for the team. I often struggle to find ways to recognize and reward team members for doing a good job.

This is a common struggle. While most people agree with Dale Carnegie’s principle of giving “honest and sincere appreciation,” it’s less likely you’re doing it regularly.

Sometimes recognition doesn’t happen because you don’t know where to start. Other times, you’re waiting on the organization to consider or approve what you’ve planned.

While both of those are real obstacles, neither should be stopping points. Here are five ways you can recognize people immediately — perhaps this very hour — without having to wait on anybody else (and four of them are completely free).

1. Recognize Up

Some people have the bad habit of “copying up” when they are frustrated.

What’s copying up? It’s when someone sends a request or complaint email and copies your manager. At best, it’s annoying to suddenly have to justify actions to your manager. At worst, it’s an extremely manipulative way to get things done (so don’t do it).

However, tweak “copy up” just a bit to get “recognize up.” If someone has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help in a situation, send them a thank you email and copy their manager.

While people will often tell you that it wasn’t necessary for you to share the kind words with their manager, I’ve yet to run into anybody who didn’t appreciate it.

2. Lunch

Since the origins of modern society, human beings have shown appreciation and hospitality by sharing meals. And, as the New York Times reported earlier this year, we’re increasingly doing this less at work.

Your biological need for food connects you with everyone else. Taking someone (or a team) to lunch as a thank you for a job well done is almost always appreciated. Most organizations allow at least an occasional lunch as part of a manager’s budget.

Even if there’s no budget, showing gratitude by taking a few people to lunch once in awhile won’t break the bank. If you never blink an eye to buy lunch for a family member or friend, consider doing the same for someone who’s really helped you in some way in your career.

Caution: Be cautious with dinners and weekend events. Recognition events outside of working hours can be perceived as additional work obligations.

3. Handwritten note

It’s now become so unusual to receive a handwritten note that anytime I send one, almost always the recipient comments on it later.

Sure, it takes a bit more time to track down a piece of paper and nail down someone’s address, but that few extra moments will often leave the other party with something that will be remembered.

I know many people (myself included) who have saved handwritten notes from a manager, colleague, or customer for many years. If you want to write a note that will connect, follow Dale Carnegie’s advice on how to make appreciation memorable.

4. Create an award

You’re not required to wait for the next company award nominations or the next official recognition program. If someone is deserving of recognition, create an award now.

There have been times in my career when I’ve created an informal “cool person of the week” award and sent an email to someone about why they were so helpful that week. The personal touch often went a long way and was sometimes more meaningful than a formal award.

5. Praise in public

You’ve probably heard the term, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”

Good advice on both fronts — and be sure that you’re going enough of the first. You almost certainly know someone deserving of recognition whose efforts might otherwise go unnoticed. Take a few moments at the next meeting to thank them publicly for the work they’ve done.

Even if you’re not the manager or it’s not your meeting, you can still offer recognition during discussion or announcement time. There’s 30 seconds in almost every meeting for a quick shout-out to someone. I’ve yet to see anyone get taken down for daring to interject unplanned recognition.

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