The Atlas

Praise and recognition is a team project

Number four on Gallup's list of 12 Elements of Employee Engagement is the one I sometimes struggle with: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

This one is a challenge for me for a few reasons:

First and foremost, I'm not especially effusive by nature. In coaching training the process of acknowledging and validating is an important part of the training, and it's often the one I struggle with the most. And while I certainly like receiving recognition for work well done, I have learned over the years that it is a currency like any other: over-spending it can actually devalue it.

Secondly, within a team environment, I have found that the real need on this front is comprehensive. As a manager, while I can (and always try to) acknowledge when someone on my team does a good job at something, it's really not enough for this to just come from me. What I have found is that it is more valuable to cultivate a team culture that includes this kind of recognition from peers.

One of the hardest aspects of the modern work environment is that we frequently work in cross-functional teams, and as a result, our boss will often not have direct visibility into our work, but they could be largely unaware of the actual details of the project we are working on. If the boss is the only one providing recognition, then that sets up a no-win situation.

Project teams, therefore, are critical for this type of recognition and feedback. In a matrixed project team organization, subject matter experts are often leveraged for finite aspects of an initiative. And that person's ability to collaborate, help others understand complicated or nuanced information, providing input that supports the timeline of the project, and actively engages in something that isoutside of the scope of their 'day job' is invaluable to the team -- and the best way to encourage that is for the members of the team to recognize that, and express their appreciation to each other.

So many of the ways in which we manage our work environments are based on a functional organizational structure, but most of the work we actually do is matrixed. Therefore it is always important to remember that leadership is not about your job title, and if you want to maximize the opportunities in your environment -- both for yourself and your colleagues -- then the best way to do that is to act like a leader regardless of your title.

Most of us know that it feels amazing to be recognized -- especially by people whose opinions we respect -- for doing our job well. Therefore, it follows naturally that part of what makes us a good teammate is to extend the same appreciation to our colleagues. (And that's before we even get into the voluminous amounts of data on the benefits of gratitude.)

I hope you have a great week! And, in the course of your day, I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled: I bet it won't take much for you to find someone who is doing work worth praising. It might be a small gesture to you to recognize them, but odds are you'll make their day. And how can you go wrong with that?

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