You Did “What?”


I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. — Gandalf (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit)

The domino effect of recognition is endless. It is so important that babies cry for it and grown men die for it. Children call out, “look at me”.  Athletes give body and soul, and sometimes even will sacrifice their values for it, and executives work around the clock for it. RECOGNITION. In Australia, we have what is called the “tall poppy syndrome”. We have disregarded many recognition opportunities in schools, in communities, in organizations, because we don’t want the non-achiever – the non-‘trier’ – to feel bad. We are sabotaging our inherent makeup — the need for significance. Young people don’t want to stand out in the crowd. They just want to be the same as everyone else, average, mediocre, bottom of the best, top of the worst. However, despite these (and a lot more) widely accepted and well-documented beliefs, even here, there are those people who want to be the “top dog”. Truthfully, we all want to be “somebody” underneath our mask of playing it cool.

Perhaps, at one time or another, you have had that “taken for granted” feeling. Often people just have an “expectation” of what we “should” do. The challenge is we like to feel appreciated or recognized, even for those small, repetitive tasks. We really do love people noticing us, appreciating us, and acknowledging us. When we get that ‘well done’, we shine ever  brighter. We love the accolades. We love the pat on the back.

Studies continually show that job satisfaction is enhanced, and people will try harder, with higher performance, when they receive recognition. Recognition builds our confidence and self-esteem. We do more when we feel valued, appreciated and when our contribution to the relationship is recognized. Recognition builds stronger relationships with our partner, our children, our friends and work peers.

But how many of those accolades do we give out? How many times do we acknowledge when someone has done something special for us? How many times do we acknowledge someone for doing the mundane, unnoticed tasks? We don’t recognize others — not because we’re awful people, but because we are so filled with our own needs not being met that we sometimes lose sight and forget what’s truly important — others. Give and it shall be given to you. Send out gratitude and it comes back, appreciate others and it comes back, recognize others and it comes back.

I have a friend who got up for three weeks in a row at 3 a.m. to say thanks to the garbage collector. Do you think that garbage collector made sure that person’s garbage cans were upright when his truck moved on? Of course. He wanted to live up to the praise and appreciation that he had been given. He had a benchmark that he always met at my friend’s house. Doing good can be simple, but simple and easy are two different realities. Doing good, that acknowledging of another, always will give us something far better in return: a deep sense of worth. We all long for significance and pray for a life that matters. And when you tell someone that their life matters, you have lifted them to a higher plane and your own life is lifted as well.

When people place expectations on us, we obviously try harder to meet them because we don’t want to disappoint, especially when we know we will be recognized for our efforts. Thus, the outcome of recognition strengthens quality and brings trust and loyalty.  It helps to form a loyal culture that will attract and keep the highest quality people.

My grandkids can’t wait to show us their report cards. They love it when we praise them for doing well and giving their best. They love it when we tell them how clever they are and that we are proud of them for the effort they have put in to doing well. Recognition is not only about acknowledging their good outcomes, but reinforcing the positive performance of giving it all they have to do their best. It’s about creating an ethos in which all efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. This is a responsibility that should be common to all of us, not just doting grandparents.

Then, too, consider the benefits to be gained if you just acknowledged yourself. How much better would you feel about yourself if you weren’t reliant on others recognizing you? Because what if they don’t? When it becomes a habit to find the good in others and recognize it, and you also find the good in yourself, the world becomes a happier place.

I have a game that I love to play when I go to the shopping centre: I love to “catch” at least one person doing something good –- and praise that person for it. Or perhaps when I go into the ladies room, I pick up the paper towels that have spilt over onto the floor. I joke when someone is looking and say, “It’s just the mother in me!” After years of this game, I discover that I just have a natural inclination to spotlight the “good stuff”. When you plant seeds of appreciation and recognition, you will uncover even more  “good stuff” and find that the more you give away, the more comes your way. Start the “recognition — appreciation” habit in your circle and see what happens! We all will be the richer for it.

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