How to Make Recognition Meaningful to the People Who Need It (Everyone)

Nearly everyone wants to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done. I know I do. When I’m recognized, I feel better about myself, more connected to my colleagues, and more committed to the task at hand. Positive feedback puts a spring in my step. 

My experience isn’t unique either. In fact, Maritz Research found that employees who receive recognition are:

  • 5 times for likely to feel valued
  • 7 times more likely to stay with the company
  • 6 times more likely to invest in the company
  • 11 times more likely to feel completely committed to the company

For bigger projects, exceptional results, or when extra work was involved, the research showed that expectations about recognition were far more nuanced. For most people, it’s almost never just about more money; instead, it’s about feeling valued. But people value different things about themselves, which means understanding the personalities of the people involved plays a big part in recognizing them in ways they’ll find meaningful. 

For example, the Deloitte findings showed that some people wanted their teammates to be recognized with them because they viewed their own accomplishments as the result of a team effort. Others wanted to be recognized by being given an even more challenging project or stretch assignment, while others were looking for visible acknowledgment in front of as many people as possible.

Another important aspect of recognition is a demand from the new majority of the labor force, Millennials, who emphasize the community aspect of their workplace, including acknowledgment from peers and team members. Ryan Jenkins, writing in Inc. magazine, says that making “recognition programs more social and peer-to-peer will win over Millennials.” Echoing this fact, Toni Vranjes, writing for SHRM’s HR Magazine, says employees value peer recognition as much—and in some cases, more—than hearing praise from their manager. While tangible results are still somewhat mixed on formalized peer-feedback programs, it’s clear that being able to give and receive feedback positively within teams is a new requirement for talent retention.

If only there was a way to understand what individuals value, what motivates them to perform so that recognition—both top-down and peer-to-peer—could be an effective use of the company’s energy, time, and money? OK, I teed that up, but there is something that can solve this problem: Relationship Intelligence.

You’ve probably noticed (or if you’re lucky enough, experienced first-hand) that high-performing teams have great relationships. Members know one another—and recognize one another—at the core. This doesn’t magically happen. They’ve done the hard work of understanding their differences and adjusting their personal approach to one another because they care about their team and its outcomes.

When this doesn’t come naturally (and let’s face it, it rarely does without some help), sharing the results of a personality assessment and learning what motivates leaders and their team members can go a long way to building a culture of recognition that works. I’ve contributed to the evolution of the Strengths Deployment Inventory, or SDI 2.0, for several years. It provides a common language for understanding what’s important to people, and it measures the way each person uniquely values three core motives. By employing a simple and memorable guide, any leader or team member can gain a window to what drives that person and how to tap into it. It’s even available as an app. 

The important part is that by creating this foundational understanding among people, recognition not only becomes something that can be tailored and thus more meaningful; it can become a part of regular communication. Imagine the impact of not only meaningful but regular recognition to people’s commitment, happiness. Just imagine the spring in their step.

Dr. Mike Patterson is a principal at Core Strengths in Carlsbad, Calif. and teaches in the doctoral program at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He is also the co-author of Core Strengths: Results through Relationships training and the book, Have a Nice Conflict: How to Find Success and Satisfaction in the Most Unlikely Places (Jossey-Bass). Contact him at

Culture: Create a workplace where relationships thrive

Create a workplace where relationships thrive.

Because talent doesn’t work alone.

We’ve all seen it; we need to deliver on a high-stakes project, so we bring together our A Team, a collection of the brightest, most talented individuals we have; and it bombs. The team that, in theory, will deliver brilliant results deteriorates into back-biting, recrimination, conflict and an abject failure to deliver. Why?


As we’ve seen in a previous post, innovative, disruptive teams must have team members with differing views and, if unchecked, this can lead to conflict. We have discussed that, by understanding where our own, and other’s feeling of self-worth comes from, our Motivational Value System (MVS), we can enable healthy disagreement whilst avoiding conflict.

So, what happens when we take that approach outside a project team and apply it across your entire organisation? What happens when we create a truly connected culture? Every organisation has a unique culture, some loose and ill-defined, others explicit and well-documented. When we think of organisations like Microsoft and Apple we can all imagine what it’s like to work there.

But whilst organisations like those are founded on a charismatic leader and disruptive products, it takes more to make them the ultra-successful organisations they are. As Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they tell us what to do”. But there’s even more to it that that. It’s not just about having smart people; it’s about having smart people who work well together.

Now, more than ever, organisational structures are fluid. Teams and working groups form and re-form, both formally and informally, to address the challenges and needs an organisation faces. It’s vital every team works to maximum effect which can be a challenge, especially when the team is cross-functional. The reality is, for example, the technical team have different priorities to, say, the procurement team or senior management.

However, if everyone knows their own, and other’s MVS, we can ensure every interaction is respectful and mindful of the other person’s feelings of self-worth. And by acknowledging and accommodating the other person’s MVS we can frame our communication to be in line with both our and their values and reasons. We create a genuinely connected culture.

But it’s not easy. In complex and ever-changing working relationships, it’s hard to keep tabs on what everyone’s MVS is, especially if we’re working under pressure. Our Talent Effectiveness Platform provides the support you need.

The application holds vital relationship intelligence of everyone in your organisation. As teams are formed you can map the entire team, identify the collective MVS profiles and create a composite strengths profile for the entire team. Not only does this enable you to frame your communication in the most appropriate way but also to identify how well balanced, or not, the team is. For example, if a team is heavily weighted towards a performance MVS will it give enough regard to people and process? Is the composite strengths profile appropriate for the task at hand? If not, can you recruit the missing strengths into the team?

By creating awareness across the entire organisation you build a collaborative culture that will deliver optimum results in a mindful and trusting way, every time. The recipe for a great organisation.

Coaching: Identifying the issue is not enough

Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes…

…you won’t understand them any better, but you’ll be a mile away… and you’ll have their shoes. Joking aside, when it comes to managers and team leaders, judging other people in their team, in order to help them perform better, is generally a bit of a nightmare.

Whilst most organisation espouse a coaching culture very few actually achieve it. The bottom line is coaching doesn’t happen as much as it should. Most managers claim they simply don’t have the time to coach but, when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find a more deep-rooted reason; they don’t know how, or what, to coach.

It’s easy when a team member has a clear skills gap or attitude problem, the manager knows what they are looking at and can tackle it head on. But most of the time is less obvious and the route to improvement isn’t always easy. The manager doesn’t have a clear way forward and, more often than not, is fearful of getting it wrong. If their attempt at coaching lands badly there’s a real risk of conflict, damaged relationships and a worsening of the performance issue.

Everything we do relies on working well with others and we all, and especially managers, need to be good at it. It’s all about appreciating and understanding our own, and the other person’s motives; the core that gives us our feeling of value and self-worth, what we call your Motivational Value System, your MVS. We’re all different and, if we’re coaching someone with a different MVS to your own there’s a real risk of getting it wrong. For example, a person with a process motivation will look to plan the way forward whilst someone with a performance motivation will look to cut to the chase. There’s an obvious clash and, unless acknowledged and appreciated, a risk of conflict.

That’s where our Talent Effectiveness Platform comes in.

Every team member completes SDI 2.0, to identify their MVS, and the results are shared across the team. Once everyone is aware of their own, and others, MVS they can plan their interactions accordingly. By matching our own approach, and how we communicate, to the other person’s MVS, we can ensure we get the most effective outcome possible. And that gives the manager the confidence of knowing what to say and how to say it, which makes the chance of the conversation actually taking place much more likely. Suddenly managers do have time to coach after all.

Our Talent Effectiveness Platform does the planning for you. It enables you to compare your MVS with the person you are about to coach and offers clear, practical advice on how to approach them to best effect. It provides guidance across a range of scenarios, from face to face conversations to how to frame an email, to ensure your coaching intervention lands well. By framing your coaching in a way that appeals to the other person’s MVS you will ensure it is well received and, chances are, will be acted upon. Conflict is avoided and the desired outcome is achieved.

Collaboration: Overcoming Complex Team Challenges

‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.’ 

Michael Jordan

In our last post, which was part of our 5 Cs series, we considered the importance of effective communication in our previous blog, “Effective A-Team Communication.” Now, we want to consider how collaboration makes great teams even more effective. Getting a team to work well together is now harder than ever. Team structures are becoming increasingly more complex in today’s environment.

Most writers on effective teams are clear that it is imperative to have a common purpose that all of the team members buy into; they need a context of why the team exists. The key from our perspective is to communicate the team purpose and objectives in a way that resonate with all team members. To do this, we need to understand the audience we are communicating with.

So once we have a common purpose and clear, agreed upon objectives, we can truly get started on what we believe are the essentials of an ultra-effective, ultra-collaborative team?

Trust in Teams

To work well together, all the team members must trust each other absolutely! Teams that trust each other are not looking for hidden agendas or hidden meaning; they recognize that we all have different values and different communication styles and look below the surface to the intention and motive behind the behavior.

Open & Transparent Collaboration

To be a collaborative team, everyone needs to ‘turn up & be present’. This means ‘turning up and being present as you are’ and not ‘who you think others want you to be.’ To enable this to happen, we need to know and value who we are and the perspective we bring to the team. We also need to truly know and value others in the team and the different perspectives they bring

This is where Relationship Intelligence comes in. It gives us a framework to help us be more aware of the values and motives of each team member and their energizers/de-energizers. It helps us understand, accept, and appreciate the value each team member brings and to respect different positions and perspectives.

Relationship Intelligence helps us to be brave and bold in thought, word, and deed which leads to creativity, innovation, and ambition.

Tolerance & Inclusiveness in the Workplace

These are easy words to say and have in many circles become the buzz words for effective teams. The reality of bringing them to life can be a little different.

A Quick Example:

We worked with a CEO who was increasingly frustrated that his senior team appeared indifferent and disinterested when talking about key issues at meetings. After running a team session, he identified that they did actually care as much as he did, but his domineering personality was preventing them from contributing.

He decided that, in the future, he needed to invite them to contribute more (inclusive) and then be willing to listen to what they had to say (tolerant). He decided to be more tolerant of their style of communicating as it sometimes wasn’t as direct as he would like. He began to take the approach of asking questions, so he could get them to build on their ideas instead of making it seem as though he was inspecting or calling them out, which was his previous style.

His meetings are now much more productive and performance has improved.

Productive Challenge & Debate

It is inevitable that individuals in a team will have different views and will often approach tasks from competing angles. This is healthy and is to be encouraged as long as we are focussed on a common objective for the team. The reason teams avoid it is because they either don’t trust the environment or they are afraid of it becoming personal.

If we use the SDI 2.0 framework to understand each other better and to understand our potential conflict triggers, we can have healthy opposition without it turning into conflict.

Have you ever had a challenging conversation with someone about an issue and eventually resolved the issue, but you still feel uncomfortable with that person? That is because you have allowed it to turn into conflict, and you have resolved the issue and not the conflict. See our next blog for more about conflict!

Responsibility & Engagement

Great teams understand each other’s personal strengths and more importantly where, collectively, there are any gaps. That enables them to consciously use strengths they wouldn’t usually deploy to become even more effective.

Every team member accepts responsibility, individually and collectively, for achieving their common purpose. It’s not about self-promotion and individual point-scoring; it’s all for one and one for all.

In diverse teams with different ideas, the skill of compromise is key. The ability to build on the ideas of others and accept proposals that were not your own for the greater good of the team shows true engagement with the team’s objective.

Of course, we can’t get it all right all of the time. In our next post, we look at what happens when it goes wrong, when there is conflict.

Communication: The Key to Creating Your ‘A Team’

The A-Team was a hugely popular TV show in the 1980’s in which a dysfunctional team of loveable rogues beats insurmountable odds to bring justice to the wronged. The screenwriters didn’t invent the term but popularised it, and now we all recognise an A-Team as a highly functioning group that consistently produces fantastic results. So what makes an A-Team?

Effective Communication is the Key

Every great team is made of individuals who communicate well because they:

  • Understand and respect each other’s views and differences.
  • Recognise that in some ways we are all similar and that in other ways we are very different to each other.
  • Appreciate that we all view the world through a different lens and therefore give and receive messages differently.
  • Listen with the intent to truly understand the other person rather than to confirm their existing view or wait for the opportunity to speak.
  • Look beyond the communication style of the messenger to find the true intention and motive behind the words.
  • Adapt their communication style to suit their audience.

How do we become an Effective ‘A-Team’ in communication?

We do this by recognising that people are complex, but relationships don’t need to be. We create this by fostering an environment of awareness, understanding, acceptance and appreciation of ourselves and others.

Awareness & Understanding

Effective communication starts with a greater awareness of your own values and motives, including your natural strengths and the things that energise/de-energise you or may trigger conflict for you. The next step is to consider how well you understand the others in your team – their values, motives, natural strengths, and the things that energise/de-energise them or may trigger conflict for them. How we communicate with each other is fundamentally connected to our core values. We are all driven by a unique blend of three primary motives that are led by a concern for people, performance and process. This is what we call our Motivational Value System (MVS).

Acceptance + Appreciation = Effectiveness

Once we understand each other more, we can genuinely accept the difference that we all bring to a situation and hear people without making judgements based only on our own perspectives. This allows us to then truly appreciate and value different points of view, which fosters healthy challenge and debate. There’s no shortage of correlation between teams that actively pursue all sides of an issue and outstanding achievement. It sounds simple, but the environment that encourages that kind of collaboration requires an adaptability in communication among team members that puts partnership first. 

This is when the ‘A-Team’ reaches true effectiveness.

When Collaboration Really Counts

Every year, there are 400,000 deaths attributed to preventable mistakes in American hospitals. Read that again—this year, 400,000 people will die from avoidable errors during hospital care.

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