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High performers have enough coffee mugs

3 min read


Take a gander around your workspace. What’s the bling factor? If you’ve done anything even remotely beyond the call of duty, you probably received some kind of award for it.  A ribbon here. A fancy pen there. Some kind of engraved acrylic doo-dad. Coffee-mugs-turned-pencil-cups  everywhere.  Does any of that stuff make you want to do more above-the-call-of-duty work?  Or does it have all the meaning of “flair” on a TGIF’s waiter’s uniform?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking the latter.

If you feel that way, it’s a fair bet that your people probably feel that way, too.  “Here’s your thing, thanks a bunch,” will take you only so far when what you really want to do is sincerely convey the message to your employees:  “I have noticed you and how great you are. And I deeply appreciate all that you’re doing for us.”

Still, who doesn’t like a present?  The trick is to make that gift personally meaningful.  Recognition” is just a fancy word for “You’ve been noticed, and you’re more than just a face in the crowd.”  And the reward should reflect that.

Here are some ideas:

  • Money is always appropriate for small events. Catch someone doing something right?  Spot them a $20 or $50 (depending on your budget). It could be a nice night out with the spouse.  Or it could mean that their lights stay on for another month. You don’t need to know. But your employee will find a really good use for it. Guaranteed.
  • Buy them a ticket to their passion. For something more significant, buy them a gift that relates specifically to something you know about them personally.  Even if it’s a gift certificate, choose a store that demonstrates that you know who they are beyond their job description and performance review.
  • Buy them a ticket to their future. High performers are also ambitious and voracious learners.  They want to know more, do more, be more. Help them out with a tuition-paid course of their choice, an assignment to a special mentor, or an assignment to a special developmental project.
  • Give them the chance to impact their colleagues’ future. If they’re especially successful in some aspect of their work, let them share their insights and techniques with the rest of their colleagues.  Maybe it’s just me and my own ego, but not much make me feel more puffed out and proud than the question, “Wow, how’d you do that?”  There’s a lot of buried gold in the heads and hearts of your high performers. When you mine it, you not only get the value of their differentiating approach to their work, but you also make them feel great, appreciated and valuable.  And noticed. Sure, you might want to give them a small doo-dad to commemorate the event, but the lasting value is the fact that they know you noticed.  And the rest of your team benefits to boot! Can’t beat that.

True. Your company’s workspaces might become devoid of flair.  But is that really such a bad thing? For high performers, the real flair is in the satisfaction of doing their jobs well with people they respect. The fact that they know you’ve noticed — and respect them enough to show them in a meaningful way — will be that added initiative to keep them doing that great job.

Image credit, sjlocke, via iStock