Recognition & Celebration Bring Power

By Ruby Vesely on June 20, 2017

When was the last time you prepared for a conversation? My guess is that it was most likely a difficult conversation, where you may have had to provide some tough feedback. 

When was the last time you were intentional about planning for a conversation focused on recognition or celebration? Morag Barrett explains, in her book Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships, that this is called an Applaud conversation. These conversations are most often overlooked, yet essential to nurturing your critical relationships. It is true that we remember the tough feedback, yet when we thank someone or celebrate success in an intentional way, it will create a lasting and meaningful memory.

Following are some tips to make your Applaud conversations and celebrations even more impactful.
Think beyond your direct reports or team members - Our success is dependent on all of our critical stakeholders, not just those who report to us or have a connection on a project team. You can have an Applaud conversation with your boss, his/her peer, a cross-functional partner in the organization, an external customer, someone who provided good service to you inside or outside the organization, etc. Peer-to-peer recognition and Applaud conversations are some of the most powerful, in that they build stronger relationships and are often unexpected. Think about the front desk receptionist or facilities employee at your office. How surprised would he or she be if you intentionally thanked them for the work they do every day?
  • Next step: Plan for one Applaud conversation this week with one of your critical stakeholders.
Be spontaneous - Studies have shown that tenure-based recognition programs have become more of an expected reward that does not drive higher performance. This is because they are not a timely recognition linked to a specific behavior, and the gifts are not individualized. Do something unplanned or make it a surprise. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It simply needs to be genuine, timely, and connected to a behavior you want to reward. Take your team out for lunch when it’s not expected. Call a co-worker and ask how they are doing. Schedule a quick get together for your team (live or virtual) to celebrate a “win” that happened earlier in the day. It is the spontaneous and unexpected moments in life that we tend to remember the most.
  • Next step: Thinking about your team preferences, brainstorm some “spontaneous” and/or creative ideas for recognition or celebration. Keep this list on hand for quick reference.
Celebrate the small stuff - We many times wait too long to celebrate (e.g. the end of a project, quarter end, year end). Sometimes our work or projects can feel very heavy, and small celebrations and recognition along the way will lighten the load. This is extremely important in a virtual relationship. When we are separated by distance, it is even harder to build trust and camaraderie among the team. Incorporating recognition and praise into the everyday moments will reinforce the team connections and build trust. Most importantly, it will help them feel they are not alone and that their team “has their back”.
  • Next step: Plan an interim celebration for a meaningful project that is currently underway.
Make it a habit and part of the culture - How can you make a commitment to having consistent Applaud conversations? How can you make recognition and celebration a part of your organizational or team culture? You can incorporate this into regular staff meetings, quarterly and annual team sessions, or during your regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings. For example, during our staff meetings, we each share what went well the past week. Many times, this includes a “shout out” or thank you to another team member. You can put a reminder on your calendar, if you need to remember to have regular Applaud conversations. There is no shame in that! If we schedule it or write it down, we are more inclined to do it. If this feels forced, do something that feels genuine to you. Most importantly, keep it simple and part of your regular practice.
  • Next step: Change one small thing to make recognition and celebrating success part of your organizational or team culture.
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