I taught an introductory class in Project Management last month and we got into discussion about motivating team members. I mentioned that I take every opportunity I have to recognize people for their work. I was surprised at the reaction of the class. They were evenly split into two camps. Half agreed with me. The other half thought people should be rewarded only when they do something extraordinary and should not be recognized for just doing their job. There are obviously merits to both approaches. What are your thoughts?
I understand both perspectives. People have a job to do, and they should do it. Why recognize them for what they’re supposed to do? I was giving a seminar a while back on motivation. During that seminar we played a game and I played up the recognition aspect of rewarding people for just participating. I even gave out small prizes. When the seminar was over, a woman walked up to me and said, “You know, this is the first time I was recognized for doing something since I’ve been here… and I’ve been here 10 years.” Wow. Ten years of showing up to work. Day after day. Doing what’s expected, and never getting so much as a thank you. How many of you work in an organization like that? Can you imagine the power that a simple call out for a job well done can be in that environment?
We discussed my experience above in class. Someone chimed in, “so when kids play soccer, you probably think there shouldn’t be a winner. That they should all play nicely in the sandbox so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings?” I was a bit surprised by that perspective and while I don’t agree, I knew where this was going. That if we recognize everyone for doing the little things, that pretty soon the little things are good enough and people don’t stretch for the big things.
If you don’t expect big things from people…
big things won’t happen.
There is obviously some truth to that. So how should you approach this? Like many things in dealing with people, you need to strive for a balance. You should recognize people for accomplishing the little things, but you should also challenge them to become better. What I’ve found is that when recognized for doing their job, most people will strive to perform better for you.
Over the years, I have often inherited people that were considered trouble by others. In almost every case, they performed well for me, much to the surprise of everyone else. Why? Because I valued what they did, and helped them overcome some of their weaknesses. Did it always work? Of course not. Sometimes, you have to do what’s best for the team and when people aren’t performing, you need to let them go.
My advice, thank people for showing up, but encourage them to be better. On the other hand, if people aren’t performing, then do what’s best for them, and let them go.
All the best!
All the time!