6 Tips to Ensure Authentic Recognition!

Sarah speaking

In 2016 we had the opportunity to be introduced to professional speaker and recognition expert Sarah McVanel and it was no more than 20 seconds into the conversation I knew Sarah and her message of “Recognition” was a perfect fit for the Arlan Group. In today’s world, taking the time to recognize someone for something they did, no matter how small, goes a long way to building self-esteem, healthy relationships and positive corporate morale. Workplace wellbeing is our area of expertise and as they say “a little recognition goes along way”….

Let’s hear what Sarah has to say ….

Recently, a wonderful woman, super passionate about recognition, came up to me and said, “Loved what you did, and I hope that people walked away feeling like the most important thing about recognition is that it’s authentic and that it’s sincere.”

Great point.

I hope that you know that effective recognition is authentic and sincere. But how do you do that? People are busy. People are taxed. Not everyone finds recognition easy, and there are lots of people out there – you may be one of them – that don’t feel like they need much of a pat on the back to be able to do their best work.

Knowing that there’s all kinds of people in the world, and we’re all going to have a different need for recognition, the extent of it, the type of it, let’s all agree that the key common connector is that it has to happen sometimes, and if it’s not sincere and authentic, it’s not going to have impact.

So how do you do that? Here are a few tips that work for every scenario.

1. Make it visible.

You have to be visible for one thing because if you’re not out there in the work environment and you’re sending acknowledgments, people are gonna think, “Where’s this coming from?” If you’re rarely visible, people may think, “I don’t even think this person knows my name,” so it doesn’t feel real. It feels forced and falls flat. Peer-to-peer, the more we understand each other’s work and we see it, the more that authenticity is going to make an impact.

2. Be specific.

What exactly are you recognizing? That whole ‘good job’ thing just feels flat because you could say it to anyone, anywhere. What specifically do you want to say that you really appreciate and why do you value it? What difference does it make to you, customers, peers, the organization as a whole?

3. Time is of the essence.

It’s nice at a team meeting at the end of the month to do shout-outs. What a great way to add positive energy to what may otherwise have been a dull and packed agenda! However, don’t think recognition is a monthly thing. If it’s that juicy, pick up the phone, send an email or next time you see the person in the hall just say, “I’m going to do another shout out later, but I want you to know I’ve been hearing great thing about you on that new project you’re on.” It doesn’t take much time out of your already busy day, but the timeliness of it helps to speak to the sincerity of it. Besides the fact that if you’re anything like me, you may forget!

4. Personalize it.

Do you know how folks most like to be recognized so you can match preference with your delivery? Some like public recognition and others would be embarrassed! Take the time as a leader or team to figure out preferences. Want a tool to do that? Check out my Cool Stuff page for a template. When it’s personalized to how we most value being acknowledged, then it just lands as the gift that it is.

5. Make it about what you care about.

If you genuinely aren’t interested in your colleagues and your staff, you are doing this because you think you have to or because you attended my session or because you have corporate initiative, it will fall flat too. What do you care about? Maybe you care about performance and meeting the metrics. Maybe you care about people being really good in terms of customer service or patient care. Acknowledge that. Acknowledge the things that you really care about, and then it feels sincere and it’s authentic because it is! When the tape running through your brain is “I have to do this” versus “I want to do this”, it shows.

6. Amp up the gossip.

Tell people that you heard something positive shared about them – passing comment about their competence, the use of a report they wrote at a meeting, being recommended for a new assignment. How else will they know unless you tell them? And BTW, if you want to practice fueling healthy gossip in your workplace, you can go onto my Cool Stuff page and download all kinds of free tools on how can you facilitate it in your workplace. Don’t assume the person knows that great things are being noticed about them. Tell them!

I hope the buckets of tools referenced in this post are helpful to you. And, is there another one on your wish list for authentic recognition? Post in the comments below and I’ll upload one! Also, share on with others who can be part of your recognition revolution!


Sarah McVanel is a recognition expert, sharing her knowledge and client stories through professional speaking, coaching, training, membership portal and co-authored books “Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness: Solution Focused Strategies for Satisfied Staff, High Performing Teams and Healthy Bottom Lines” and The FROG Effect Workbook: Tools and Strategies to Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness”.

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