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Are your leaders making these reward and recognition mistakes?

Here we explore five of the most common mistakes leaders make and explain how to fix them

A happy team is a productive team. Leaders understand the value and potential of recognising and rewarding their team, but what happens when leaders’ well-intentioned efforts to recognise and reward team members create problems? 

1. Understand why someone is being singled out

Often a leader is notified about a particular team member’s sterling effort. A common mistake occurs when the leader takes the feedback at face value and what should be a positive experience ends up being a superficial exchange, as the leader does not have enough information to hold a proper conversation.

To completely recognise someone’s efforts, the individual must feel noticed. Taking the time to gather details makes all the difference to the quality of feedback and the employee’s experience.

2. Do not congratulate an entire team for an individual’s hard work

A positive strategy to motivate a team is to congratulate everyone for a job well done; however, a good leader knows the difference between the need to boost morale and the most appropriate way to recognise an individual’s hard work. If a leader is unable to make this distinction, the results are potentially disastrous.

All too often, a team’s ability to work positively is sabotaged by misdirected feedback. A team will flourish if its individual efforts are noticed and highlighted for the entire team to acknowledge and celebrate.

3. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work

It is impossible for a leader to tailor feedback for each team member. The balance – and success – lies in understanding how people respond to being singled out.

A helpful rule is establishing whether the individual would respond well to public or private praise. Successful leaders decide whether a public pat on the back or a private note on the desk is the most appropriate way for an individual to receive recognition.

4. Do not save good news for the annual appraisal

Taking a moment to recognise a person’s effort has fantastic potential; increased morale and productivity, enthusiastic staff and superior service are just a few of the benefits. Unfortunately, some leaders save positive feedback for the annual appraisal, thinking it will have the same results – it doesn’t, and the consequences can be dire.

It is unrealistic to expect an employee to feel valued – and wish to remain with a company – if praise is handed out once a year, in private, in a formal appraisal setting. If a team member has taken the time to go above and beyond, a good leader will take the time to recognise their good work.

5. Be sincere

Effective leaders mean what they say and ensure interactions with staff are uncluttered by personal opinion. They understand that any insincerity is obvious and know that delegating the opportunity to provide feedback also nurtures leadership qualities in others. Being present to celebrate the recognition of hard work does more to maintain a professional status quo than attempting to sound sincere.

The difference between a mediocre and great leader is the amount of respect they earn. A powerful way of earning respect is to give it.

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