Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Recognition helps lead the way.

In previous weeks, we have discussed how effective leaders can guide their organizations to success. A key leadership trait is the ability to inspire followership. The most effective leaders cannot simply create a shared vision and direction for the organization, leaders must develop a relationship with the people they inspire to follow them and then guide them. Following an effective leader, people accomplish and achieve more than they may ever have dreamed possible. One of the tools that the most effective leaders can employ to inspire people to follow them is recognition. Like any trailblazer, a leader must leave tangible markers to ensure that those who follow are headed down the right path. Recognizing and publicly rewarding the most successful members of an organization accomplishes this. This can take many forms, from simple “thank yous”, and small prizes or certificates of accomplishments to monthly or yearly awards. A good leader never forgets to make other people feel important and appreciated. In order to accomplish this, the leader excels at creating opportunities to provide rewards, recognition and thanks to all members of the organization.

As Jim Kouzes and Barry Pozner write in their book, “The Leadership Challenge”, “Leaders are constantly on the lookout for ways to spread the psychological benefits of making people feel like winners, because winners contribute in important ways to the success of their projects. Leaders often serve as a mirror for the team. They reflect back to others what a job well done looks like, make certain that members of the team know that they have done well, and ensure that others in the organization are aware of the group’s effort and contributions”.

I first learned how powerful this was when I served as a Manager at Contempo Realty where our Chairman, Bob Moles, served as President and CEO. I can still recall that every time we gathered to recognize and reward the achievements of our top agents, Bob took the time to publicly acknowledge his managers, including me. Despite my own drive to be the best I could be, that type of recognition inspired me to go above and beyond my own expectations.

A study of the winningest high school and college athletic coaches reveals that they pay great attention to providing real-time feedback on their players’ performance and will, as appropriate, recognize and reward outstanding contributions.

But what of those that do not achieve that success. The answer is simple, don’t reward them. You cannot minimize the achievements of the superstars by recognizing those that just do enough to get by. To do so undermines the leader’s credibility and that of the role of recognition for outstanding achievement in your organization.

Besides the many other things that we do here at Intero to recognize achievement, we send an email out every week titled “Intero’s Top Weekly.” It lists the top producers in our organization for a given week. In an organization as large as Intero, it serves to publicly acknowledge and thank those individuals who have done the most to push forward the goals and the success of the organization. I often find that the individuals who make it on those lists are not typically the kind who would boast or trumpet their own successes, but private rewards do little to set an example.

Each week, at the bottom of each email, I include the phrase, “Grow for it! This is in recognition of everyone else who has contributed to the success of the organization and a reminder that we can all strive to achieve the status of top producer.