Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

The Most Valuable Currency That Costs You Nothing

Simple, yet complicated.

The human psyche is both complicated and predictable.

It's why copywriting, the power of suggestion, and flashing images popcorn and coke over ice before movies work so well.

We are a beautiful and inevitably unsurprising lot.

There's something every leader with a position should be doing - and something everyone who is leading from the back can be doing. It will make your influence monumentally more effective.


It's that simple.

Recognition is a basic human need (at least it would be included at the "esteem" level of Maslow's need pyramid). However, most people rarely experience it.

From the time we are children, there's a deep need to be recognized by parents or teachers or even classmate as having done a good job. When recognition is not there, often time motivation leaves as well. It's in the small things.

Anything from a well-written, organized report to a well-led meeting to well-done dishes can be the object of such recognition.

I see you.
I see what you've done here. You've done it well.

An objection is often "Why should I recognize someone for doing their job?"

I would point back to something James Kouzes says in "The Leadership Challenge."

Recognition is the most powerful currency you have, and it costs you nothing.
— James Kouzes

So why not spend it freely? Your recognition can meet deep needs in those around you. And it motivates and encourages people to do better work.

Here are three things any leader can start doing today to build moral and help the people do a better job - through simple recognition.

Constantly Observe

Recognition is not about "everyone gets a trophy". However, People want to be "seen". There are more people making unique contributions around us than what we realize. Step outside of yourself and look for those unique contributions. See them. Make a note of them. Write them down.

Strategically Tell

It's not enough to make a mental note of good behavior and leave it at that. Recognition by definition means speaking actual words which affirm. It's a mushy flow of constant, unadorned praise. However, failure to verbalize observed contributions nullifies the power of recognition.

This works well when seemingly small things are observed - and verbally affirmed.

The intro to your presentation was masterful.
Your attention to detail is impressive.
The hard work you are doing on this project will pay off.

Celebrate Well

My boss at my day-job does this well. After a season of hard work, the team is treated to a night out, a dinner, or simply a conference call in which wins are celebrated. Again - this should be done strategically. Not every day. Or even every week. But celebration is a way of recognizing group effort, as well as the work of individual team-members.

There are times when sub-par work must also be recognized - and corrected. However, that will be received with a lot more grace if jobs-well-done are recognized well along the way.