When Recognition Overcomes Success


Millennials are sometimes teased about being “trophy kids.” Recognition, earned or not, has been a central part of their lives. But how do we handle this constant need for recognition at work? Is there a limit to the amount of positive feedback and attention we should give? Can too much recognition be negative to individual and company success? We don’t think so!

Our research shows that recognition is an integral ingredient for team success. It’s part of our fifth dimension here at Teams of Distinction: Improve.

RecognitionTeam members must work to improve both individual and team performance, and when they succeed, they deserve recognition. Improvement without recognition becomes lost advancement, and rarely has a solid impact on the organization. Only through recognition of successes, things done well, as well as kind recognition of failures and things which could have been executed better, can a team learn how to avoid failure and achieve further success.

We all like to be recognized and receive compliments. We appreciate being recognized for our efforts, and if we do something wrong (or not as well as we could have), we want to know, and we want to improve. Feedback is not given enough. And the higher in the hierarchy, the less feedback is given.

Avoiding feedback is harmful for the productivity of both an individual and a company. The more positive recognition you give, the more effective your corrective feedback will also become. Why? Because the person you are criticizing will not feel threatened. As you have recognized them positively on other occasions, they feel safe. They know that you have acknowledged their positive contributions and that you know they contribute to their team. Because of this sense of security, a team member can listen to your feedback openly and will be more eager to explore ways they can improve.

Failing to recognize mistakes is detrimental. In weak teams, failures are swept under the rug. They are repeated. Crucial improvement ideas are not discussed. Small mistakes are not discovered or discussed. Later these mistakes grow into bigger problems. Teams of Distinction not only recognize failure, but celebrate it as a stepping-stone on the way to success. They recognize that admitting mistakes is a sign of trust, a sign that team members have pushed the envelope, tried new things, and explored uncharted territory. And that is a key ingredient to innovation.

Recognize good things as they are happening, and welcome mistakes as learning opportunities. Doing so will greatly contribute to the commitment of your team(s), create enthusiasm, and enable crucial individual and organizational learning. Recognition does not overcome success — recognition is its foundation!

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