I always enjoy working with companies who value their employees and recognize them for their individual and team accomplishments. I firmly believe that people want to contribute and make a difference and that the more they feel valued the more they will put into their work. I also believe that high-performing teams are comprised of rock star performers who are inspired by their leaders and feel connected to their work.
We all have at least 1 or 2 rock stars on our teams. We all wish we had a few more, right? One way to acknowledge these rock star performers for their jobs well done is to take the time to celebrate their successes as a group. Social recognition can be a powerful force in organizations, so when done well, this can even have an added affect on others who take part in the celebration. Having the best of intentions in this area though won’t always produce our intended results.
A few years ago, I was facilitating a workshop on team effectiveness and asked the participants to share their best practices and lessons learned on how best to motivate their team members. One of the participants Joan shared with us one of the simplest yet most powerful A’has for the day. In an unassuming voice, Joan simply said, “Some people are chocolate cake, and others are apple pie.”
I wasn’t quite sure what Joan meant by this, so I asked her to elaborate. Joan then shared that she’s allergic to chocolate yet her direct supervisors and other team leaders always seemed to get chocolate cake for her and her team to celebrate their successes or even just to recognize individual birthdays amongst the group. While most of the team members loved this tradition, Joan couldn’t help but feel slighted and less than inspired when her individual wants and needs – not to mention her actual health risks – were regularly being ignored.
Maybe chocolate cake and apple pie aren’t the right choices for you and your group. Maybe you have a strawberry shortcake fan within your ranks. Maybe you even have a team member like my cousin who just doesn’t like sweets and would prefer a simple bowl of fruit or a fresh apple!
Regardless of their personal preferences, the point is to recognize our employees the way they want to be recognized, not simply recognize them and assume we’re doing a good job. You’d be amazed at how much more valued and “special” your team members will feel if you just ask them how they’d like to be recognized in the future. I invite you to give it a shot and see how many people opt not to have chocolate cake ever again!