Recognition is the easiest and most effective way to motivate employees, yet remarkably, one of the least used.¬ Entrepreneurs spend endless hours trying to figure out how to motivate their teams, yet ignore this basic human need.

A little research will show that there are an untold number of studies that rank recognition, or appreciation for their work, in the top 10 qualities that lead to job satisfaction, often placing it as the number one item.

The funny thing is, this is not revolutionary. I remember being a young manager in the pre-digital age and regularly coming across articles stating the exact same thing. A different time, a different generation, yet the very same piece of advice for managers. Tom Peters, in his seminal book, In Search of Excellence, stated that “we need to catch people doing something right”!

What about all the good?

All too often we’re quick to notice when something goes awry, we lose no time in bringing the misstep to the guilty party’s attention. Yet, how often have we ignored the many good things that same individual does? Is it because we take the position that it’s their job to do it right and that’s what I’m paying them for?

Catching people doing something right requires very little effort and only entails you to be on the lookout for those moments. Recognition of a job well done can have a significant impact on morale, on profitability as well as innovation.

Build confidence

Think about it for second. You catch someone doing something really well or took the initiative to try something new. At this point you thank them and let them know you’re pleased. So, what do think happens next? Well, it’s been my experience that a smile usually breaks across the individual face. Even the most grizzled employee will probably soften for a moment. That small action on your part signals that what they do, matters. It builds their confidence, all because someone noticed.

Let’s face it, we all like to be recognized. We all enjoy the occasional pat on the back. Don’t you beam just a little when a customer says, you did a great job? Well your employees are no different. Seriously, how much effort does it take to acknowledge a job well done? Very little!

Just a little effort

If you train yourself to be on the outlook, you’ll find plenty of moments to praise. Just be sure to be sincere. The following are just a couple of examples to prime your thinking

  • You overhear an employee on the phone with a customer and you’re impressed at how they handled the situation. So as soon as the call is completed, let them know that you were impressed and thank them for caring. You can’t wait until later. It must be done immediately after the call is completed to maximize it’s impact.


  • You task someone to query your customer database for a list of customers that either bought a specific product or service. Not only does the individual provide you what you asked for, but took it a step farther and provided a list of potential targets of that service or product.


  • Another employee, shares with you something a co-worker did to go the extra mile or how they helped another employee. You first thank the employee for bringing to your attention and then immediately let the other employee know that you appreciate what they did. That’s a double in my books.

It really does matter

These types of situations happen everyday in thousand of business, without the owners ever acknowledging the individuals for going the extra distance. Too be fair, many entrepreneurs do recognize the effort, but fail to let the employee know because they get busy and forget or they don’t think it matters. Let me be very clear on this point, it does matter!

By regularly acknowledging peoples good work, you set the stage for people to give a little more or try a little harder. By letting them know their efforts are appreciated, they will go the extra mile and the impact will have a trickle down effect throughout the organization that will be noticeable.

The beauty of catching people doing good is that it doesn’t cost anything. The reward is the recognition and knowing they are appreciated. So, I challenge you to spend the next week catching people doing good, and see if there is even the slightest change in morale. What have you got to lose?


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