We all make mistakes. No one is perfect.

Yet, some managers and leaders choose to focus on the negative – the “wrong” of something. Some think being difficult or critical is the best way to improve performance. Some are situationally difficult because they believe it is an effective strategy to get what they want. And some are just difficult to be difficult. Management by exception – the process of providing feedback on only what is wrong – is all too common and far less effective than positive reinforcement or recognition.

My wife is a perfect example (no pun intended). She’s smart, beautiful, and largely underutilized (yes, I’m biased). She’s worked for the same company for more than eight years. She also doesn’t care that she’s paid much less than market for her position and experience because she likes who she works with and where she works. This past week, I called her on the way home from work – like I always do – and she was in a fantastic mood.

In fact, she was beaming.

Apparently, the general manager called her into the weekly manager’s meeting and publicly recognized her for her outstanding performance while training a new assistant manager. He went on to say that he expected this kind of “above and beyond expectations” performance from all the employees and that her work was something everyone should emulate. He made a point to do this in front of people who were important and whose opinions she valued.

There wasn’t a raise. No bonus. No promotion. No plaque. No certificate. No gift card. No free day off.

Just a sincere thank you and public recognition.

She was so excited to tell me about it; she was in such a great mood – its amazing how much a well-timed “thank you” can lift the morale of your staff. Did she make mistakes that day? Probably. But instead of focusing on those, she was recognized for the things she did best – reinforcing that behavior, lifting her spirits, and really, really motivating her. For the managers in the room, she set a standard – one they should try to meet – not only for themselves, but for their employees as well.

If you think recognition isn’t important part of effective leadership, you are wrong. The next time you feel like you want to be critical of or difficult with an employee, think about it. Is it worth it? Will the message you send have a lasting positive or negative effect? Yes, there are times when we must be stern, but those are usually reserved for critical, very important situations. Not everything is life-or-death and the little things should not be treated as such. It’s far to easy to overlook the good work people do every day. Don’t make that mistake.

Make sure you take the time to recognize others for a job well done – and it front of people who matter, not just one-on-one.

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Until next time,


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