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Recognize Up Redux

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ladder up recognition

I posted late in 2011 something called “When Was the Last Time Your Recognized the CEO?”  The main point of the post was that we see recognition programs as a “lower level” employee need and intervention.  All the articles and posts you find talk about how “employees” need recognition and validation.

Here’s a news flash – executives are employees too…

And as I’ve said a hundred times before – executives are a key link in the engagement and reward chain and the most overlooked.

Organizational Citizenship

One blog I follow regularly is Dr. Bret Simmon’s (twitter here: @drbret and blog here – go subscribe!.)  He teaches undergrad and MBA courses in Organizational Behavior, Leadership, Entrepreneurial Psychology, and Research Methods at University of Nevada, Reno.  I’ve probably been reading his posts for 6 or 7 years – a truly smart and objective view of what really impacts organizational behavior.

He’s recently started a “series” of posts on organizational citizenship and how that impacts organizational performance.

I’ll use his words

From C-suite executives to front-line employees, everyone in the organization needs to see their citizenship as a personal responsibility and understand how and why their daily efforts to go above and beyond the requirements of their assigned tasks and help others creates a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization. The evidence is clear that when aggregated over time and people, organizational citizenship makes a significant contribution to organizational effectiveness (Podaskoff, et al. 2000).

All things being equal, an organization whose employees exhibit citizenship behavior will outperform one whose employees do not.

Dr. Simmons goes on to say that

Supportive behavior on the part of our leaders also enhances our willingness to help others at work. When our leaders help us, they help themselves by encouraging a work environment where the “helping virus” can live, grow, and improve the health or our organization.

Recognizing Helpful Behaviors

Most recognition and reward programs in today’s business world have the capability for Peer-to-Peer recognition and it is “sold” as a way for employees (the rank and file kind) to reward each other for their efforts and commitment to company values.  Rarely (and I’ve been through 100’s of demos) do the providers of these programs mention that this tool can also be used to recognize management – and I mean Management with a capital “M.”

As Dr. Simmons says – supportive behaviors on the part of our leaders enhances our willingness to help others.

But how often are our leaders really recognized for their “helping” behaviors?  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that most our leaders believe that we (the rank and file employee) exist to serve (ie: help) them!  That’s the opposite of what I would consider “helping behaviors.”  Maybe they just need some help.

Here’s an experiment – try to pay attention and whenever your top dogs, big Kahunas, head honchos, etc. do something to help someone else, either by removing an obstacle, creating a new path forward, mentoring someone through a project- use your current recognition system to hit them with a “kudos” (or whatever your system calls it) and make sure that it is visible.  Yeah – in other words recognize up!

You might just see an increase in your executives’ willingness to help others – increasing your company’s overall performance.

Sometimes (a lot of the time) it is how well the EXECUTIVES help that really drives corporate performance!

What do you think?  Do we have too little or too much recognition at the top?

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  • http://twitter.com/ChinaGorman China Gorman

    This is so interesting, Paul. But how many regular employees will really recognize up when it will look to the world — and the rest of the organizations — as really public sucking up? And how many CEOs would evaluate “kudos” as true recognition rather than sucking up? I know this sounds cynical, but I look back at my own experience leading large organizations and know that I always took that kind of recognition with a great big grain of salt. Which really is to say I ignored it completely. Would be interested in your thoughts.

    • http://www.wphebert.com Paul Hebert

      Every company has a culture – and for some it is a lost cause. But… If you can get a small group to move the needle on recognizing up – then that starts to become a norm for the company. And the recognition that goes up needs to be really well done – something that will resonate with others at that level. I think “sucking up” is driven by the content of the “Kudos” more than the act of recognition.

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