I'm increasingly intrigued by what keeps managers from acting on their best intentions to recognize employees on a more frequent basis. It seems that you can raise their level of awareness as to the importance of recognizing employees and you can have them practice their interpersonal skills so that they have the ability and comfort level to recognize others, yet for more managers than not, the desired behavior will fall short of their intentions once they get back on the job. I'm convinced that the ratio of success could increase if we are able to find ways to help managers keep their commitment to their commitment, that is, to develop an individualized strategy and support plan that increases the likelihood that they will do something different.
Following are some tactics that I've seen work for managers in various organizations. Try them, adapt them, combine them as you see fit for your circumstances--and the managers you are trying to influence.
Do one thing differently. The best goals are attainable, reasonable goals, so it may be best to suggest to managers that they only focus on doing one thing differently. For example, start each staff meeting with good news and praisings for individuals who deserve it, perhaps reading thank you letters from satisfied customers or employees from other parts of the organization. Far better to have managers focus on one thing that is then consistently done than a dozen things that all go to the wayside once the managers step back into their old routines. It's estimated that 90+ percent of our daily behavior is routine, so don't underestimate the power of selective focus.
Link the activity to their day planner. For many managers, the key to impacting their routine is tying the new behavior into their current planning and organizing system. Most successful managers are highly analytical and task oriented, that is, excellent at getting identified tasks completed on time. The reason they don't recognize their employees more often is that there is not a clear, specific pressure to do so -- that is, nothing keeps them accountable. As a result, they gravitate to what has to be done and what they are more comfortable doing. One way I've broken through to such managers is to get them to think of their people as "things to do." Have them add a list of their direct reports to their "to do" list with the instructions to check each person off once they catch that person "doing something right" during the week. The manager can also write reminders in their calendar for future dates, e.g., employees' anniversary dates of hire with the organization.
Get others to help. Many managers get inspired to start a new behavior and feel it’s a personal quest they have to do all on their own. Not true! In fact, they are likely to have better results if they discuss what they are trying to do and involve others with whom they work. For example, have managers partner with someone else that they work with for recognition activities. Perhaps this is a colleague they met in a training session or someone from a different area of the company that they want to have a reason to keep in touch with. Have them exchange action plans with specific times for follow up and discussion of progress made. This person thus acts as a designated monitor, counselor and enforcer all in one -- essentially, a soul mate for acting on the new behaviors. Or at the next staff meeting a manager can say: "I'm going to be trying some new behavior and would appreciate feedback from people about it. Specifically, I'm going to be acknowledging people when I see them doing a good job. I'm trying to do this in a timely, specific way. Let me know when I do it right -- and if you value me doing it."
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