On Being a Good Leader (Recognize Performance, additional thoughts)

I discussed performance recognition in earlier posts and have a few additional comments.

Genuine, honest praise pays dividends in morale, performance, and retention.

Reinforce the recognition.

Take the opportunity to recognize achievement at each lower level.

I mentioned several ways of recognizing performance: individual recognition, peer recognition, formal group recognition, industry awards, industry travel and conferences.

At each level of recognition make the opportunity to also recognize the person at each lower level.  For example, if someone wins an industry award make sure that:

  • It is mentioned at a company-wide event or in the newsletter.
  • You announce it formally to the peer group. They may not know about it or the employee is too humble to brag about the honor. The additional round of personal congratulations will have an echo effect.
  • Be sure to personally congratulate the achievement. Make it meaningful. It must be authentic and heart-felt, not a passing comment.

Worthy of recognition
Whatever achievement is acknowledged, it must be worthy of recognition.

If the gesture seems insincere, the intended positive effect is diluted or may even become negative as it appears to have no personal or professional value.  It could seem even sarcastic or mean-spirited.

The perception of insincere recognition by the group is of little motivational value and may raise questions to your judgment as a leader and your honesty.  These consequences are the polar opposite to your intentions.

The means and method of presentation is also very important.  For example, I once recommended a recognition program to a client in order to acknowledge the hard work of his employees in what was a shoestring startup environment.  He went in an unexpected direction.

Instead of discussing the program with his HR manager or budgeting money for something meaningful, he printed Certificates of Appreciation on regular paper.  His honest judgment was that regardless of the quality of the paper and the print, the personalization of his signature was what gave real value to the document.

Needless to say, the “awards” had just the opposite effect.  It soon became an office joke with some of the employees creating their own (and better looking) awards… “Deputy Assistant Director of Support Activities” comes to mind.  There was a high employee turnover in the company.


The keys to a good recognition program are to be sure the actions are worthy of recognition and to execute the recognition is a way that makes it genuine, and heartfelt.  People may deny it, but people respond strongly to social praising.

A good award or recognition program is a means to improve company morale and create a good company culture.  Good morale and corporate culture are great HR tools that contribute to employee retention and for recruitment.  People are reluctant to leave a place they feel valued.


Kenneth Wrede












About Ken Wrede
Kenneth Wrede