Recognition: leader’s basic tool

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mary Ann Behan
  • 39th Medical Support Squadron commander
What do your peers most appreciate that's easily within your reach - recognition and praise! Recognition and praise are powerful motivators and effective methods of increasing morale while reinforcing a unit's expectations and goals. As a leader, acknowledgement of a member's contribution or achievement can positively influence the perception of their value to the unit. One simple step of acknowledgment by a leader - personally visiting the member in the workplace and sincerely extending your appreciation for their accomplishment or contribution to the unit's mission. Effective recognition can range from a simple verbal "thank you" to the formal presentation of something substantial. However, keep in mind that the more immediate to the demonstration of the desired behavior, the more powerful the positive reinforcement effect will be. So get those decorations done to present before the member leaves.

When one thinks of recognition in the military, they typically think of a formal public show of appreciation: Awards ceremonies, commander's calls, etc. Public recognition is great since it positively affects more than one member. But remember, to invite family members! Their assistance may have greatly contributed to the member's performance. Families who are involved with the unit are more likely to support members in their mission.

There are also a number of awards at all levels offered by both military and civilian organizations. It's important as leaders to take the time to submit top performers for these awards. These awards are more than certificates, plaques and trophies. They are a permanent reminder to the recipient of their accomplishments.

Whether it is a simple thank you or passing of a coin, informal recognition is fast, easy and can leave a lasting impression. People appreciate and respect those who validate their work and contributions to the mission. For many people, recognition of their hard work motivates them to achieve even higher goals and better performance.

As a leader, a smile and acknowledgement each time you pass one of your troops is a simple but extremely effective motivator and morale booster. I once worked for a commander at a larger medical facility who knew everyone's first name, and their spouse and children's name. That commander never missed an opportunity to say hello and ask about their family. We were all inspired by the leader's effort to learn about each of us and our unit morale was very high.

Recognition is a very handy and useful tool - an easy way to make a positive impact on morale and can motivate and inspire people to achieve great things. Most importantly, recognition is a way to acknowledge a person's efforts, performance and/or attitude. Take the opportunity to not only say thank you, but to recognize deserving individuals who earned your accolades.