Reflecting back on my days in the Army, there are two moments that are most memorable for me. The first was an award ceremony where several soldiers, including myself, were recognized at the end of an almost year-long deployment in Turkey. The second was my graduation from Ranger School.
These moments, from almost 20 years ago, are cemented in my mind. I remember being in a room and hearing the comments from our commanders. I remember the presentation of the service medal itself and the pinning of the ranger tab on our uniforms. And, I remember being surrounded by people who shared the same experiences.
There are many things we can learn from the military about how to make recognition meaningful. Here are a few.
- Make it personal. For Day-to-Day recognition, speak to people in person. Write a handwritten note. For Above and Beyond Recognition, invite others to a presentation who mean the most to the person being recognized. Ensure the front-line manager/supervisor is presenting the award.
- Be prepared. When recognizing people, take time to think about what you will say. Talk about the specific situation, the behaviors exemplified by the person, and the impact it had to the team, organization, customers, and others. And, perhaps most importantly, link the recognition to specific values and goals of the organization.
- Involve others. If you are making an Above and Beyond recognition presentation, ask team members or others impacted by the person to share their stories and gratitude for a job well done. This will go a long way toward making the presentation personal and building commitment among team members.
The Bottom line – if you want your recognition efforts to be meaningful and memorable - delivery is more important than anything else.