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1. Treat employees like snowflakes. Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise. Others cringe and want to run away. Recognize each employee in the way that produces the greatest impact for them.
2. Never wait. The greater the interval between performance and recognition, the lower the impact. Right away is never too soon.
3. Be specific. Generic praise is nice, but specific praise is wonderful. Don't just tell me I did a good job; tell me how I did a good job. Not only will I appreciate the gesture, I'll also know you pay attention. And I'll know exactly what to do next time, too.
4. Be sincere. This one should go without saying, but how many times have you been praised by someone who made you feel they were just checking a box on their task list? Never praise for the sake of praising -- you'll only reduce the impact when you really do mean what you say.
5. Leave out the "constructive" stuff. Many leaders can't withstand the temptation to throw in a little feedback while praising an employee. (Don't you hate the "say two positive things for every negative" guideline?) Praise and recognize; leave performance improvement opportunities for later.
6. Be proactive. Sometimes managers spend too much time looking for problems. Focus just as much on catching employees doing good things, too.
7. Try the "just because" flowers approach. Just like a surprise bouquet can make a bigger impact than Valentine's Day roses, unexpected recognition is always more powerful. Winning the weekly "great customer service" award is nice, but a surprise visit from the CEO to thank someone for winning back a client is priceless.
8. Always seek a balance. It's easy to recognize some of your best employees. (Maybe consistent recognition is one of the reasons why they're the best...