As you know, this whole issue is about ‘recognition’!
You will find many useful articles and advertisements about trips,
compensation plans, awards, and other successful programs used
by some of the leading corporations in America – and clothes – especially
about the clothes. I’ve got to tell you – I love all
of it! |
There is nothing like a new golf shirt, especially if it is one
of those good ones with the reinforced edging. Almost everything
in my wardrobe has a corporate
logo on it. What do you need – I’ve got it all. Vests, sweatshirts,
jogging suits, cowboy shirts, sweaters, weather protectors. They come in denim,
corporate colors, flashy colors, and boring beige (because “it goes with
everything”). I’ve got them from law firms, insurance companies,
health corporations, associations, and innumerable pharmaceutical and technology
product launches. I had to get to get a new suit for my daughter’s wedding
because she didn’t want a billboard walking her down the aisle.
But without question it’s the trips that I enjoy above
everything else. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I admit
I’ve never actually “won” one of these trips
by selling 280% of my quota or anything like that – I stand
in awe at these incredible performances. But I do have the honor
of speaking at a lot of these events – and I vote two thumbs
up for the incentive trip!What could possibly be better than having a
pina colada on a sunny beach with someone else paying for it?
This is assuming that the
trip included one’s spouse, partner or friend, of course.
Don’t ever, ever, ever, award someone a trip unless they
can share it with someone who supported them in winning it.
But enough of my preferences. My job is to
write something insightful about “recognition.” I’m
a psychologist, I can do this. Human motivation is my specialty. Let’s start with Maslow. The last Introductory Psychology
text I saw where he was mentioned, had a triangle diagram with
something like “Food and warmth” on the bottom and “Self-Actualization” at
the top. There were some other levels between those two, but I
forget what they were. That “Food and warmth” level
sounds like a reference to Cancun to me! But this self-actualization – becoming your actual self – that
sounds like something worth doing too. And it just might be tied
When we say we want to ‘recognize’ someone, what are
we actually saying? Sometimes we use phrases like, “Reward
and Recognition” just to expand the definition a little.
Strange language when you think about it.The word “cognition” is the mental
process of knowing or that which comes to be known. Re- cognition,
then is to know
something or someone again, to know them more. Perhaps even to
know their actual self!
Recognition, in the context we are discussing
it, is about giving evidence that you know someone, because we
all want to be known.
Just like at Cheers where everyone knows your name. At least that’s
the theory. Think back to the last recognition event you
witnessed or participated in – the awards banquet, the retirement tea, the dinner for
two, the trip, whatever. When Norma, Sam or Jean was “recognized,” what
knowing was expressed? What more did you know about these people’s
actual Self at the end of the event?You might have learned that they brought in
the Simpson account meaning $250,000 worth of revenue. Maybe
you learned that they’ve
been working here for 37 years and that now they are going to spend
time expanding their rose garden. Or was it that they had an idea
that reduced the manufacturing cycle from seven steps to four,
saving substantial costs for the company?
Most of the time what is recognized is the
generation of revenue, be it through income or cost reduction.
You hear about the sales
team winning a trip to the Boulders Resort in Arizona – when
is the last time you heard about the Finance or Human Resource
Departments getting to go? What – they don’t work as
hard? They have nothing to do with the success of the company?
Their function is totally unrelated to sales and marketing? There
are good people working in the company basement that haven’t
seen the light of day, never mind seen Arizona.
There are insightful companies who see the
value of a broader philosophy of recognition. One of my clients,
The Royal Bank of
Canada, for example, has an annual “Royal Performers Cruise” and
on that ship you will meet ‘winners’ from every department
imaginable. And that leads me to… Here is another fundamental problem with most “recognition
programs.” If the majority of your recognition effort is
related to money and financial benefit to the company – and
that usually means tied exclusively to profit centers – you
run the risk of actually creating more unknowing than knowing.
In your effort to value some, you have de-cognition or de-valuing
of others. And there you have the breeding ground for dis-unity
and the breakdown of team work.
One company, in an effort to counter this very
thing, decided to “recognize” both the clerical staff and the maintenance/grounds
people for their good efforts; groups often ignored in many companies.
So on one Friday for the clerical staff they brought in Champaign
and strawberries. And for the maintenance guys they brought in
beer and pretzels! You don’t even have to capitalize the
word ‘beer’! One group saw it as re-cognition and the
other saw it as de-cognition. This was not intentional. Someone kindly thought
the maintenance guys would prefer beer. I know I would, I don’t like Champaign.
Of course it was simply a perception thing – but the fact
is one group looked like they were in First Class, the other in
Economy. The recognition didn’t unify, it actually damaged
the connection between these two vital groups and the rest of the
organization – taking us to…
Few things are more aggravating than trying
to administer a thoughtful and well intentioned recognition program
when all you get is criticism
from those you are trying to recognize. Why is that? First, let’s
just recognize that some people have dedicated their life to misery.
They win the President’s Club trip to Fiji and complain about
the movies on the plane. Not much short of a lobotomy will help
some of these ingrates. But for most people, might there be something missing in our well-intentioned
effort to re-know them? I think so, and here is my thought on it.
It is one thing to win applause and an envelop for bringing in
that huge account and eclipsing your sales quota. And it is another
thing for someone to speak of the qualities of your life, the sensitivity,
insight and skills you have, your unyielding commitment to goals
you genuinely believe in, and the principles on which you have
built not only your career, but your very existence. In the first option there is no knowing of
the actual self. In the second option there is a great deal of
knowing about this person’s
person. It is fine to know what they did for thecompany – it
is better to know who they are and how they have come to this amazing
place of passion, purpose and performance.
People want to be known for something deeper
than how much money they brought into the company. If the world’s wealthiest
salesman dies, will his widow read over his pay stubs or his love
letters? OK, bad example…anyway here is…Most of us got into what we are currently doing
motivated by some purpose, perhaps even a sense of calling or
destiny. None of us,
I don’t think, grew up saying, “I hope someday to win
an incentive trip to Hong Kong.” Or “My goal is to
accumulate as many crystal figurines and corporate watches as possible!”I think we long for a sense of meaning and purpose. We want to
know that we are doing what we are meant to do with our lives.
We want to know we are living significantly, and are making this
world a better place. If that is true for you as it is for me, then
follow that “recognition” should be an affirmation
that I am indeed fulfilling my life’s purpose?
Recognition events should be felt as spiritual
benchmarks that my life is unfolding its true potential. The
of every recognition initiative is to become a meaningful memory.
This is why cash, while valued, is a relatively poor recognition
tool. I don’t know anyone who has their bonus checks pasted
into the family album so they can show them to their grandkids. But oh that trip to Bermuda. You open the album and there the
two of you are, slow-dancing on the beach in your bare feet, intimately
aware that both of you were honored and affirmed by this trip from
the company. It could be as simple as a short article about you
in the local paper, telling the neighborhood about why you are
so special to your family, friends and employer. It could be the
menu or match book from that very special restaurant where the
company sent your whole family, including all three kids, that
brings back a meaningful memory of the first time they ever saw
a lobster. Maybe the most important lesson of all is...
The following quotation
must be printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international speaker and
consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com