Why Leaders Don’t Recognize by Chester Elton


About Chester Elton – #1 Bestselling Business Author & Expert on Organizational Culture

One of today’s most influential voices in workplace trends, Chester Elton has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute on strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring and always entertaining talks, #1 bestselling leadership author Chester Elton provides real solutions to leaders looking to manage change, drive innovation, and lead a multi-generational workforce. Elton’s work is supported by research with more than 850,000 working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high-performance cultures and teams.

More info: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Chester-Elton


Not long ago one of us spoke to a group of managers from a water delivery company in Las Vegas. After, a GM from one of the locations approached us and said that when his people hit a safety goal—making so many deliveries without accident or injury—they get to be boss for the day, sit in the air-conditioned office and answer the phone. Meanwhile, this leader makes deliveries for them. And in Las Vegas, when you make deliveries in 110-degree heat, that means a lot.

Unfortunately, these managers efforts to appreciating his employees’ efforts are rare. Despite the overwhelming evidence that recognition creates more productive, profitable teams, we meet managers weekly with a bevy of excuses for why it won’t work for them. They believe they don’t have time to recognize, or they are afraid of creating favorites on their teams, or they simply don’t know where to start.

Let us briefly address just three myths we hear a lot, beginning with a common phobia to recognition: That too much will spoil my employees.

“It’ll lose meaning if I recognize too much.”
Love Your Life
“My people get recognition every two weeks in their paychecks.”

“It’ll lose meaning if I recognize too much.”

Yeah, and if you cross your eyes too long, they’ll stay that way. When was the last time anyone at work said, “Man, this place gives too much recognition! It’s really killing my productivity.” Our guess is, let’s see … never!

Recognition doesn’t get old if it is done right—which means it should be timely, frequent and specific. Does anyone ever tire of our boss saying that we matter and we add value? According to our friend Marshall Goldsmith, the number one reason companies lose their top performers is “no one ever asked me to stay.” To keep our best people we have to help them feel valued.

“I don’t have the time.”

What did your mother always tell you? You make time to do the things that are important. If you want to inspire your team and show real appreciation, you will find the time. It doesn’t take long. the effective motivators we’ve met rarely spend more than an hour or two a week recognizing their people, but the results are remarkable. After all, how much time do you need to write a thank-you note, present a formal award or say “thanks!” in a specific manner?

One vice president of a state AAA wrote us to say he has become a believer in what he calls the “Power of the Thank You.” He took a thank you card out of our training kit and explained, “I went back to my office and was reading through some really good work that one of our lawyers had done for me on a particularly vexing issue. I jotted out a quick thank you note to him and dropped it in the interoffice mail.” The result? The lawyer was in near tears when he received the note of specific thanks.

“Culturally,” the VP said, “we had gotten away from the simple ‘Power of the Thank You’ that is timely and specific. So, I make it a point now, whenever I can, to stop myself and stop whomever it is I want to thank, look them in the eye, and thank them very specifically for what they’ve done. Better yet, if they’re with a group of people I try to do it with others around in a staff huddle.”

“My people get recognition every two weeks in their paychecks.”
While its correct that money is why we show up for work each day, cash doesn’t create passion, customer service, or innovation once we are there. We need money, but we crave someone to acknowledge our value. In fact, research shows two keys to employee engagement are 1) recognition for good work and 2) having a voice in decisions that affect you. According to the Gallup Organization in the book First, Break All the Rules, “If you are paying twenty percent below the market average, then you may have difficulty attracting people. But bringing your pay and benefits package up to market levels, while a sensible first step, will not take you very far. These kinds of issues are like tickets to the ball-park—they can get you into the game, but they can’t help you win.”

Great Leaders Recognize
The great leaders we meet with have learned to rise above their collective phobias about recognition and are building terrific cultures where people come, stay and contribute because they feel valued and appreciated. Some of these effective managers acknowledge that it isn’t always easy to recognize; others admit they have made mistakes along the way. But they stick with it. And because of that persistence, they have seen real business results.


To Learn more about Chester contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]