Monthly Archives: June 2015

Catching People Doing Things Right – Part Two

“There are two things people want more than sex and money — recognition and praise.”     Mary Kay Ash


Today’s blog is a continuation from the previous blog. This highlighted what groups of participants came up with during my series of workshops for managers in a large university.

Ways to Recognise People: 

Give positive feedback/’thank you”: “Thank You!”

  • To individual and/or team (both appropriate)
  • In person to the individual
  • In front of their team
  • By email
  • On Intranet
  • In card
  • In newsletter
  • Cc their supervisor/manager
  • Cc the Vice-Chancellor/CEO if significant
  • Personalised letter by manager (or more senior)
  • Positive feedback on notice board
  • Have a ‘thank you’ email folder
  • Recognition in weekly newsletter

Financial Rewards

  • Higher duties
  • Promotion
  • Bonus
  • Increased pay scale

Work and Job Related Benefits

  • Provide car parking space
  • Provide very positive PDP ratings/comments
  • Time off in lieu, early mark
  • Be representative at vendor function
  • Flexible work arrangement to cater for individual needs
  • Campus get-togethers


  • Nomination for awards
  • Create additional awards, e.g. Employee of Month, team awards
  • Give certificate or trophy
  • VC’s Special Development Award
  • Scholarship
  • Corporate awards (for individual and/or team)
  • Silly awards!
  • Recognise anniversaries with meaningful gift (e.g. pin after 5, 10, 15 years, etc.)

Industry and Community Recognition

  • Industry recognition
  • Community recognition – nominate for community awards

How well do you recognise people?  What ideas can you and others take on board from the above list?

In my next article, I will discuss an issue that is such a challenge to probably most managers – managing poor performance.

Narayan van de Graaff  

Catching People Doing Things Right

Beyond Small Buckets of Money

Some years ago, I ran a series of eight Performance Management workshops for all the managers and supervisors of a large council in Sydney.  I asked the General Manager to open each workshop, and say a few words to indicate the importance of the training in context of the bigger council picture, which he did.

At the outset of the first workshop, I could sense a frustration or resistance to the training and asked if they had an issue with it.  They were quick to reply. “We have a very small bucket of money with which we can reward staff, and very many staff.  So we’re really frustrated because it’s the only way we can recognise and reward staff.”

I challenged their assertion, and spontaneously did something which I have done many times since that day.  I got them to brainstorm (through a mindmap) the ways in which we can recognise and reward people.  They got a shock!  They came up with around 25 ways to do this.

Two years later, I did the same exercise with managers from various campuses of a university.  They came up with a substantial list, which is reproduced below and in the next blog.

 Ways to Recognise People:

 Learning and Development

  • Recognise their skills: make them a Subject Matter Expert
  • Work on special projects
  • Give them increased responsibility/decision making ability/scope for initiative
  • Committee membership
  • Participate in meetings at higher level than normally the case
  • Give challenging/fulfilling project/tasks
  • Support learning & development/career and study ambitions
  • Allow them to help with special events

Celebration (more tangible than a simple ‘thank you’)

  • Celebrate completion of successful project
  • Barbecue/dinner/lunch
  • Team events (e.g. team building, bowling, Golf Day)
  • Cake at morning/afternoon tea
  • Pass on positive customer feedback (cc supervisor)
  • Gift at Christmas
  • Flowers/chocolates/lollies
  • Friday afternoon drinks
  • Dinner for two
  • Gift vouchers (movie tickets, David Jones, etc.)

 How do you and managers in your organisation recognise and reward staff for work well done? 

Is the culture one of ‘catching people doing things right’ or ‘doing things wrong’?

Narayan van de Graaff 

“When You Haven’t Had a Kick Up the Backside….”

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.   Warren Bennis

Strong Foundation

I am very gratified by the many constructive responses to my last article.  Some of your comments related to the following key points:

  • The need to both demonstrate and earn respect (thanks, Geoffrey Bush).  You will earn respect if you are a positive role model.  People will respond much more to what you do than what you say. You will earn respect if you have the courage of your convictions, even if this goes against what others are thinking.  You will earn respect if you are authentic and human, and willing to ‘not be perfect’.
  • The need to trust your people (thanks Brian Rhodes). The word delegate comes from the Latin word delegatio – to entrust.  So many managers seem to find that extremely difficult.  They do work themselves which they could/should have delegated because “I don’t trust them to do it right”, “I can do it faster and better myself”, “My butt gets kicked if they stuff it up”, “I haven’t got time to delegate it” and so on.  For goodness sake, how are people going to develop confidence and competence, unless they are given the opportunity to stretch themselves and make mistakes in the process?  And what’s wrong with investing time in explaining, coaching, constructive feedback and recognition?  Isn’t that a key part of the leader’s job??
  • Practice ‘management by wandering around’(thanks to John Greenhalgh)I am indebted to Bob Ansett for this phrase.  Remember Ansett Airlines?  I’m not sure if Bob spent too much time wandering around and not enough time in his office, but I like the essence of this phrase.  To me, it means spending enough time with each team member so that you can support them, give constructive feedback, identify their learning and development needs, recognise progress, deal with poor performance in a timely manner, and importantly, be able to give specific, meaningful feedback at their performance reviews.
  • “A good manager hires the right people, gives them the right training and leadership, and lets them do their job.” Many thanks, Jim Finch, for this great summary of good leadership/management.  I have trained hundreds of managers and HR staff in recruitment and selection, focussing on behavioural interviewing.  While these techniques are not infallible, they are a darn sight better than the ‘nice chat and gut feel’ approach to recruitment that I still see operating.  Too many managers are unconsciously unskilled –they don’t know that they don’t know!  They don’t recognise the enormous costs of poor recruitment choices they have made and continue to make.  This whole topic merits several articles in its own right.  By the way, ‘the right training’ includes on-the-job training, which some say is around 90% of training.  How effectively do you do that?
  • Many of you seemed to like reference to inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process and being a good role model.  At this point, I need to make a confession!  I borrowed this terminology from Kouzes and Posner, who studied thousands of leaders seen by others to be great leaders.  They found that these leaders almost invariably carried out five key leadership practices.  These are:
  • Inspiring a shared vision
  • Challenging the process
  • Modelling the way
  • Enabling others to act
  • Encouraging the heart

Their book ‘The Leadership Challenge’ has been around quite a few years, yet I believe these practices to be just as important now as when they first wrote this book.

Key question for you: How are you in relation to each of the five practices?  Which is your greatest strength, and in which area should you seek to enhance your skills?  How will you do that?

 Narayan van de Graaff

You’re Doing a Good Job When You Haven’t Had a Kick Up the Backside….

A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.                                                                                       Lao Tzu

Businessmen recognizing one another

For 27 years, I have trained and worked with thousands of supervisors, managers and executives, in a wide range of organisational cultures.  At one point, I carried out a staff resignation survey for a major bank, which was losing literally thousands of staff and not knowing why.  Some respondents attached four-page responses to their questionnaire.  They were so upset about their reasons for leaving the bank that they wanted to pour out their feelings to this stranger (me) who was asking them why they had left.

The survey results were not surprising, given the organisational culture at the time.  The foremost reason for these people resigning was a lack of recognition.  One typical response: “Was there for 32 years.  During that time, I never had even a pat on the back for good work.  Even that would have been nice.”

The above quoted response was indicative of that organisational culture back then.  In fact, one executive, whose team I was training in time management, said to me, “My staff know they’re doing a good job when they haven’t had a kick up the backside for a few weeks.”  I replied, “I’ve spoken to your staff, and know for a fact that they want more than a kick up the backside to know they’re doing a good job.”  I then asked, “How hard would it be to praise someone who has done an excellent job – to simply compliment and thank them?”  He had a blank look on his face, having worked for so many years in a culture where “You’re b…dy lucky you’ve got a job”, and “That’s what you’re paid for!”

 Back to the resignation survey.  Another key factor for many staff leaving was the dominant culture in which they felt over-controlled, with their supervisors or managers continually checking up on them.  One person wrote that he felt like he was in kindergarten all those years, with no trust being demonstrated when tasks were delegated.  Interestingly, delegate comes from the Latin word, delegatio: “to entrust”.

My message to all those in a leadership/management role:

  1. Don’t under-estimate the power of a pat on the back.  And remember: there are many ways you can reward and recognise staff for a job well done.
  2. Entrust your staff when delegating – maintain the right amount of control – not too much, and also not too little.  Provide them with the support and constructive feedback they need to do the job properly.
  3. Inspire a shared vision, and be prepared to ‘challenge the process’ – in a constructive way.

How do you rate, in relation to the above three points?