Recognition Of Our Worth And Value Is A Universal Need

Posted by Rick DeMarco on 3 September 2015

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As we look back over our careers, we often have defining moments that shape our view of the world forever. When I was in my late 30’s, I had the incredible opportunity to manage one of the world’s most iconic brands, KitchenAid. Up to this point in my career, other than a short two-year period running a cable television operation in rural Kentucky, my experience had been in the financial field; so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was presented with this opportunity. At this time, KitchenAid Portable Appliances was a one-product organization, manufacturing and marketing the legendary Stand Mixer. I will never forget when I took the assignment that my marching orders from the President of KitchenAid were twofold: First and foremost, don’t mess this up. Protect the equity of the brand and reputation of the KitchenAid stand mixer. And two, grow the business from a one-product company to a full small appliance competitor.

Over the next two years, our team introduced a hand mixer, blender, and food processer. And the market responded incredibly. With that as background, let me get back to that defining moment. After our team hit record sales, record earnings, record growth rates, and introduced 3 or 4 new successful products in 2 years, I went into my annual performance review with visible excitement and expectation of a strong “attaboy” from my boss. However, after hearing that I was going to get a 2% increase and after reminding him of our team’s performance, it happened. That defining moment. He said to me, “you’re a Vice President, you’re expected to perform like that.” I was more disappointed with the lack of recognition for a job well done than I was with the small increase.

That defining moment set me on path of commitment that I would always take the time to recognize and reward others for their commitment and performance; whether they are superiors, subordinates or peers. Everyone needs to be recognized for their value and contributions, regardless of their role in an organization or title. I’m not talking only about financial recognition, although that should certainly be used when appropriate. I’m talking about filling the human intrinsic need for recognition for our worth and value. It may be something as simple as a “thank you” or “job well done” comment, or something as complex as stock options or increased pay. But just as we should expect to be corrected and counseled when we do not perform to expectations, we should expect to be recognized and rewarded when we do. Effective leaders take the time to understand what drives and motivates people they lead. And when they do that, they are able to understand the appropriate way to recognize and reward high performance, commitment, and loyalty. 

Daniel Pink wrote a groundbreaking book called Drive, in which he talks about the power of intrinsic motivators. He talks about our human need to be recognized and rewarded in ways that surpass the carrot and stick approach of “if you do this, then you’ll get this”. It’s about human behavior and the human spirit. Recognition and reward does not have to cost a lot of money. It just requires a commitment to never take for granted commitment and performance, and always take the time to meet the need for recognition. It often is easier to recognize a subordinate or peer. But when was the last time you told your boss that he or she was doing a great job or that you appreciated his/her effort or commitment?