How do you know you are successfully leading and influencing others?

  • Your influence causes people in his group work as one in order to achieve common goals
  • Your influence inspires and motivates followers to become better.
  • Your influence instills a sense of followership in his members

One key way to accomplish this is through appreciating others on the team through rewards and affirmation!

Yet this is hugely lacking in today’s business culture. A recent Gallup Poll found that almost two out of three people receive no workplace recognition in a given year.

This underscores a recent finding from the U.S. Department of Labor that the number-one reason people leave their jobs is because they "don't feel appreciated."

The Difference Between Reward and Recognition

Reward and affirmation are not the same. Webster defines a reward as something given for a worthy behavior or performance. These are tangible and may be in the form of a raise, stock options, profit sharing, extra vacation time, travel packages and bonuses.

Affirmation, on the other hand, is a favorable notice of an achievement done by an individual or group.

Both are necessary to keeping morale high. A team member who is continually told they are doing a great job but never sees a raise or other tangible reward will soon believe they are being played. On the other hand, money enough is not enough of an internal motivation to keep someone in a culture that lacks gratitude and appreciation. 

The Eight Reasons Why People Do What They Do and How To Show Each Motive Affirmation

Psychologist Bobb Biehl points to eight reasons why people do what they do. These are to feel:

1. Loved –unconditionally loved and received

2. Significant-to make a difference and bring transformation whether or not you ever receive credit (ex. changing the health of a company)

3. Admired-for others to aspire to be like you in some regard (ex. to have team members who desire to be mentored by you)

4. Recognized-to be publicly applauded and have your name recognition (ex. to be awarded at a banquet or meeting)

5. Appreciated-pat on the back and thanks, privately is fine (ex. to be verbally told or given a handwritten note saying thank you)

6. Secure-safe and have some semblance of control and protection (ex. to have a stable position and paycheck)

7. Respected-to be asked for input because you are perceived as valuable and wise (ex. asked to be on a committee or board)

8. Accepted-socially to be able to belong to the team or community (ex. invited and not left out on informal staff lunch outing)

Typically, someone has a dominant form of affirmation with some secondary forms present. Affirming the individual through multiple meaning channels can be a powerful esteem builder.

When You Catch and Affirm Someone Doing Things Right, It Encourages Repeated Behavior.

When great actions, teamwork, or an attitude are appreciated it provides positive reinforcement. When this is reinforced positively, his behavior is strengthened. When she or he is recognized for his or her efforts, the team member will be much more likely to go the extra mile to meet his superior’s expectations.  Emotional buy-in is created when one feels that he or she will always be appreciated and rewarded. Thus, the likelihood of the team members doing their tasks well will increase.

Rewarding and Affirming Lead to Increased Self-Esteem and Productivity.

Rewards and appreciation also boost the employee’s self-esteem. He or she feels that the company thinks of her or him as an asset to the organization. Results motivate, and more so rewarded and appreciated results.  When team members feel that they have contributed to a positive outcome within the business, they will feel good about themselves and will enjoy their job more. A happy team member is more productive than someone who is not.

Individualization is Key.

In order for recognition to be meaningful, it must be tailored to the recipient's preferences, not the giver's preferences. If you as a leader receive affirmation from being recognized, don’t assume this is how all your team members receive affirmation. In fact, some people strongly dislike to be publicly awarded.

You must take the time to know what motivates each team member.

Here are some questions affirmation understanding questions Gallup suggests to ask:

  • What is the greatest recognition you have ever received?
  • What are your "hot buttons" -- hobbies or interests you like to talk about a lot?
  • What increases your positive emotion or "fills your bucket" the most?
  • From whom do you most like to receive recognition or praise?
  • What type of recognition or praise do you like best? Do you like public, private, written, verbal, or other kinds of recognition?
  • What form of recognition motivates you the most? Do you like gift certificates, a title for winning a competition, a meaningful note or e-mail, or something else?

Give Specific Affirmation Tied to a Task

A generic “good job” means little in terms of creating repeated behaviors. Telling a team member, “I really appreciate the extra time you spent on that report,” has much more meaning. Be sure to include why you appreciate them. “The extra time you spent providing details about projected income allowed me to get our budgeted expenses pushed through the committee.”  Guess what? Every report you get from that team member in the future will be apt to have extra effort put into its creation. When team members can their activity to how and why it helps the organization, and feel like a contributor, morale rises.

Give General Affirmation tied to Their Character and Growing Leadership

While a majority of affirmation should be tied to direct actions and accomplishments, it IS important to celebrate the whole person. Set aside time to have a conversation where you affirm team members in an individual way. Of course, sincerity is vital. We tend to know ourselves and can easily recognize when a leader is blowing smoke and using false flattery

Here are some general affirmations:

  • Leadership comes naturally to you.          
  • You have superior managerial skills.
  • You take charge easily no matter what the situation
  • People often look to you for advice.
  • You embrace responsibility.
  • You initiate projects without me asking.
  • You work diligently with minimal supervision.
  • You are honest and candid.
  • You bring a sense of peace when there is chaos.
  • You accept new challenges.
  • You have great interpersonal skills.
  • You make things happen.
  • You draw out the best in others.
  • You are an encourager.

What Can Happen When We Don’t Affirm

The absence of giving rewards and affirmation to team members who have performed and behaved well in the company will lead to actions with adverse effects. Team members will begin to underperform. They will feel that there is no reason to exert extra effort in performing tasks. They will be more likely to take unwarranted breaks, mindlessly surf the web, arrive at work late or ignore rules. These negative effects may bleed over into colleagues. A team member may complain, spreading negative energy and pass blame to others. In the final act, a team member who feels unrewarded and under-affirmed will opt to leave the organization.

Giving rewards and affirmation to worthy team members is a ongoing activity of a great leader. Great leaders create great team members. And lest we forget, rewarded and affirmed team members make a leader great.  


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina