Master the 3 R’s: recognize, reinforce and reward

by | May 16, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic remain the foundational three R’s.

Remarkable individuals regularly perform three additional R’s: recognizing, reinforcing and rewarding. (And yes, in today’s VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous] world you’re doing more….)

These R’s are powerful ways to appreciate others and inspire them to continue on their current path. By taking a few minutes to practice any of the three R’s, you can re-energize and re-engage the people on your team or others you’re working with.

What’s the difference between the three? They’re stepping stones.

  • Level 1, Recognize: You’re thanking individuals for their actions, which can be efforts as well as results.
  • Level 2, Reinforce: Besides thanking individuals for what they’re doing, you’re acknowledging them for the specific actions they’re taking. They’re not only expending effort, but they’re also making progress or if they’re high achievers, getting results already. By calling attention to the new behavior, you’re helping them shape it, repeat it and bake it into their daily routine and the organization’s culture.
  • Level 3, Reward:  You’re giving individuals something to show that you appreciate what they’ve accomplished. The reward doesn’t need to be of high value, but it should fit the situation and the person. (For example, my dog Gustav jumped for joy when he got this edible bone  for pulling his cart to the store. He would not have reacted as favorably to a coffee mug, candy or flowers.  Nor would those rewards be appropriate for people who prefer soda to coffee or tea, are dieting or are out of the office.)

Why shine the spotlight on these three R’s now? They’re often absent. And people notice, miss them and speak up—maybe not to you, but to others.

When reading write-in comments from surveys, I often notice that employees long for recognition. They want thank you’s. They want acknowledgement that they’ve been heard. They want to know if what they’re doing matters. The same thing happens in focus groups. Employees search for validation of what they’re doing.

As one of my prospects noted, we take a lot of short cuts in this area. And we short circuit the good everyone is doing. He observed that his organization is notorious for simply saying “We’ve made good progress but there’s more to do.” And then they move on, staying silent about the actual positive actions they’ve taken and results they’ve achieved. Nor do they bother calling out individuals to acknowledge and thank them for their contributions.

Practicing the three R’s takes minimal effort in the whole scheme of things. And they go a long way in keeping us focused on doing the right things well in our ever-changing workplace.

You can master the three R’s by following these five tips:

  • Be timely. Try to catch individuals in the moment.
  • Be specific. Link your comments to the precise thing that an individual is doing that you appreciate, such as hitting an important deadline early; anticipating a customer need, which delighted the customer; or suggesting a process tweak that saves time.
  • Be sincere. Show that you truly appreciate what an individual did. You don’t want to come across making the gesture just because someone told you it was time to start acknowledging people more.
  • Be performance-based. When you’re reinforcing or rewarding, praise for actions related to the behavior you’re looking for, even if it’s an initial effort. 
  • Be personal. Follow the platinum rule and treat people the way they want to be treated. This shows sincerity on your part as well as acknowledgement of who they are.

If you want help giving shout outs, make a game of it. You can play Oprah Winfrey’s Thank You Game to spread gratitude across the world as well as locally. You also may want to try the new service Yiftee, which is in beta. It helps you practice deliberate acts kindness.

Now a special favor to ask of you, especially  if you’re feeling an “attitude for gratitude.”  Please visit my new Connect Consulting Group page on Facebook and  “like” it.  Your action will be great reinforcement that you get something out of these posts.

Thank you for reading and liking this!


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