It Doesn’t Cost Much to Build a Culture of Recognition

I often speak of the exponential power of recognition, and yet, the message gets lost because of the simplicity of it. The exponential power of recognition is when recognition catches you off guard and it’s a surprise.

Why is this so important?

When we are out there trying to do our daily work, and we’re working as hard as we can, too often it’s heads down, get through it, and yet when somebody stops and surprises you, it’s a moment in time you remember how valuable your work is. How meaningful it is in the big picture. That someone is noticing. You don’t forget those kinds of moments.

Kim Shepherd is a business mentor of mine— the leader of a wonderful, completely virtual and very profitable business called, Decision Toolbox out of California. It’s not easy to be able to be all about culture when people don’t always physically see each other on a regular basis, other than perhaps through video conferencing. Yet, she has built one of the strongest cultures in North America. How did she do this? Through leveraging the exponential power of recognition.

The Element of Surprise

When you surprise people by acknowledging their greatness, it connects with the emotion centres of the brain making it more memorable. We want to pay attention to the things that stand out to us as it is what we notice. When things are benign and just day-to-day, it’s very hard to take those things in. It takes being present, paying attention and caring about those small moments…and not letting them pass you by.

There are lots of different ways in which we could do this. In fact, if you go to my website: Cool Stuff, you can download sample strategies on leveraging the exponential power, and to take it even further, check out my new membership site, The FROG Portal.  It’s bursting with resources that I know you will benefit from.

Kim’s experience in her first job is a great example.  She received a bonus—because she’s awesome, of course—and instead of giving her a cheque, the organization put that big bonus in her bank account. Kim knew bonus time was coming around but didn’t know how much to expect.  When she accessed her bank and saw too much money sitting in her bank statement, she thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s a problem.” She had to go the bank and say, “I think there’s a problem with my account.” The bank looked it up and what did they find? It was her employer! She put two and two together and with a big smile she realized, this is how they show their employees they care…with a memorable moment. Now that’s how you give somebody a bonus!

It’s Not About the Money

You may be thinking, “Well, I can’t give bonuses. We’re not-for-profit,” or, “Our economy isn’t doing too well,” or, “We’re in an industry that isn’t doing well.” You know what? It’s not just about industries that are making money.

In fact, we know the link between job satisfaction and money is actually very weak. We can practice the exponential power of recognition and it doesn’t have to cost a thing! In addition, we’re spending money on recognition programs that not only aren’t exponentially energizing, they’re not what most Canadians value and want.

Pay Attention to What’s Meaningful to Me

In the case of life events, often we do very little to acknowledge these important times, and yet, when you think about what may be the most important things in employee’s minds, whether it’s your peers, your staff, your colleagues, it’s their life events. We talk a lot about work-life balance, but how often do we actually acknowledge the important things that are going on in their lives? Somebody’s had a baby. They became a grandma for the first time. They bought a new house, or they decided they are going to get rid of debt and they’re going to just buy an R.V. and travel around once they retire in three years. Those are important events in people’s lives. When you know about it, why not acknowledge that life event?

Little Gestures Mean a Lot

On the topic of family, when we have people who are sacrificing time away from their family, it is within our best interest to show support to them, to leverage that as an opportunity to recognize. One of my favorite examples is sending Swiss Chalet to the family of somebody who is working really late, with the driver saying, “Company ‘X’ wanted to say thank you so much for being willing to spare mom or dad, again, because they’re working really hard on a project.” How much does that cost? Probably about the same amount as a gift card. But the impact is dramatically different. If you don’t have the funds to do this, consider what doesn’t cost money to show a family how much you appreciate their mom, dad or spouse. Why not send a card? It costs a stamp and the price of a card.

What About You Rock Star?

So what juicy ways have you practiced surprise recognition? Any ideas or flashes of insight you can share via the comment section? Together let’s brainstorm and share how to best leverage the element of surprise to make sure our best staff and clients feel valued.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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