A Powerful Lever During Challenging Times
During critical times, emotions tend to be expansive, ranging from lows to highs in a moment’s notice. Employees might turn from fear to anxiety to gratitude to gratefulness all within a few hours.
The level of severity and change COVID-19 brought upon our world, our businesses, our workforces, and us as individuals amount to a level many of us have never seen before. And, in turn, high and continuously changing levels of emotions.
At the crux of these emotions is a yearning that each of us has—a fundamental need to know that we matter. A desire to know that we are visible and that what we say, do, and contribute makes a difference—regardless of the dips and escalations of our emotions.
As we work through this “new normal” as best we can—sometimes seeing clearly and other times through foggy visibility, we know that status-quo will change and critical components and behaviors that lead to desired outcomes will be altered. What was standard before will become a critical focal point of opportunity tomorrow. There are a set of behaviors we either need to start doing, or we need to stop doing, and because things change so quickly, there is no time for documentation or a carefully planned training session to teach others what these are in a strategic and methodical way. As leaders we must act now, we must act “in” the moment.
We need to start doing the right things now and stop doing the wrong things now.
So how do you do that? It boils down to recognition. Catch the things you see folks doing right and acknowledge them. We know that what gets recognized gets repeated, it’s the fundamental nature of who we are—when we get rewarded, we learn expected behaviors and we repeat them.
These moments are not hard to find—even in our new way of working. Behaviors are constantly happening around us. If you really pay attention, you’ll catch employees doing something right and the opportunity to give reinforcement.
Be sure not to let too much time pass between the moment and your recognition and reinforcement. Acknowledge the behavior as soon as you can, don’t let the moment slip by.
Additionally, be specific and clear about the action you want to be reinforced and repeated. As others observe your recognition they will pick up on these new behaviors, they want to be recognized as well, who doesn’t? So the outcomes of your actions will go beyond the individual employee you recognized and will spread through the team creating a domino effect of good behavior, and, more importantly, clarity of what behaviors that you, as a leader, want to see exhibited in your employees.
We’ve always known that recognition is a driver of engagement and performance. It’s a driver that some organizations have mastered, and others are in the process of learning. But at this critical time, and during any challenging experiences, no organization rises above the other. We are all learning as we go, figuring out the “new normal” day-by-day. Use recognition as a tool to bring visibility to new expectations, desired behaviors, and what “the right things are.” You’ll be surprised at how quickly your workforce will rise to the occasion.
Kris Erickson, Co-Founder, and Director of Consulting, WSA
Learn more by listening to our #workforcewise video series: The Power and Beauty of Recognition