A while back, I was talking to a client, Peter, and he had been experiencing a lot of stress. He was telling me that he was feeling the weight of the organization, like he was having to hold the whole organization together.
That's a lot of stress for one person to feel.
As we were exploring it further, Peter shared a recent interaction with his manager. His manager was reflecting on a project and told Peter that he really appreciated the quality of his work and the effort he put in – that he had done a great job.
It was nothing more than a one-on-one, heartfelt conversation recognizing Peter for work that mattered.
Peter said to me:
"That felt so good. It felt great for somebody to know what I was doing and to appreciate it, because I think a lot of the work I do is behind the scenes, invisible. People don't really know about it. So to hear my manager say that he saw it and he appreciated it felt incredible."
These moments of recognition matter.
When was the last time that someone recognized you for your efforts? Can you remember someone sharing genuine gratitude and appreciation for your contributions?
If you can remember that moment, you remember how it felt. And how important it was to you.
In general, we don’t recognize people enough. We have a tendency to point out the things that people can do better in an effort to help them grow, but not to highlight all the things that are going well.
Regular recognition and appreciation is just as crucial to growth. It gives us confidence that we’re on the right track, and motivation to continue taking on challenging tasks that push us to expand our skills and abilities.
More motivating than money?
When I was talking to Peter about how great he felt about the recognition he received, he was sure to add, “You know, if they want to give me more money, I'm not going to say no!"
But the money wasn't the driving force behind his motivation.
Daniel Pink says you just need to pay people enough money to take the money conversation off the table. What motivates them to stay, grow, contribute and add value? It’s the intangibles, like gratitude, appreciation and recognition.
Finding out how to recognize your people
Shortly after working with Peter, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with his manager. When his manager asked me what motivated Peter, I was able to tell him about how much recognition and appreciation for his efforts meant to him.
The manager was so relieved to hear this because he had no idea how to support Peter in staying motivated.
The truth is that most people don't know what motivates others unless they do some very intentional trial and error to figure it out. So what can you do if you’re not lucky enough to just have me walk in and tell you how to motivate your people?
Ask during onboarding. Ask during one on ones. Ask after you’ve given recognition. Make it clear that you care about giving them what they most need.
I have a list I've created of 10 great questions to ask your direct reports in your one-on-ones. Just shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to send you a copy.