Recognitions offer organizations great opportunities to increase not only people’s engagement but also enablement. While rewards have an impact on people’s rational brain and are highly structured as well as regulated by organizational, legal and market scales; recognitions find people’s emotional brain as a target whereas they are neither structured nor regulated. Moreover, recognitions allow not only to provide appreciative feedback but also strengthen bonds between leaders and teams, team members and different areas that interact as part of a value or workstream. Furthermore, recognitions can be based either on values or behaviours, being the latter recommended as the most convenient framework to establish a recognition program. Although recognitions are based on actions that exhibit certain type of behaviours, since actions are part of people’s identity because “we are what we do”, recognitions can reach out the person itself. Therefore, whenever an action or behaviour is recognized, the identity of the person is strengthened which increases its trust and self-confidence opening possibilities to grow not only engagement but also enablement. However, is not enough to clear identify behaviours for recognizing, it is also important to know how to recognize each person because unlike rewards what we truly value is deeply personal.

Gemba leadership to grow engagement

First and foremost, it is essential for leaders not only recognize people based on results and goals completion, which is quite common in most organizations, but also to recognize people based on behaviours and actions showed to reach out goals and achieve outstanding results. Therefore, leaders need to see for themselves how people perform to be able to assess practices instead of only results. However, rapport between leaders and teams must be built in order to accomplish a successful assessment, otherwise leader’s presence in the workplace can be misunderstood by the team. Furthermore, leaders shouldn’t be perceived as auditors and “gemba” walks are not audits, in contrast they are learning exercises for leaders through which they can learn about the process and people as well as to identify performance drivers. The foundations for recognitions are established when leaders show genuine interest not only in what people do but also in people itself. Thus, leaders closed to their teams can grow engagement by making feel people valued not only for what they do but also for who they are.

Coaching to increase people’s enablement

Another important aspect to consider is the impact that recognitions have on people trust and self-confidence. When leaders recognized working practices, they are also recognizing workers and by making them feel not only valued but trusted as well. Moreover, on these grounds’ leaders can encourage people to move forward from their comfort zones to further develop themselves. On the hand, whenever people are not performing well, the constructive feedback must be focus on practices and never on people. What is more, leaders must share the vision that all team members have the potential to excel by putting in place and in use best practices. Furthermore, leaders must help people to develop trust and self-confidence to change their practices and transform themselves. Therefore, leaders must keep in mind the vision of the former Toyota Chairman Fuijo Cho “First we build people, the we build cars”. Thus, it is based on trustworthy relationships and self-confident teams that new skills can be develop through coaching to increase people’s enablement.

Strengthen bonds within and between teams

Finally, through peer to peer recognitions not only better working relationships can be establish within and between teams, but also a wider vision about “the team” which leads to develop an E2E approach. Moreover, this inclusive vision is built based on caring about other people and processes within value or workstreams. However, the enormous potential of recognition can be unleashed only by understanding that everything revolves around value. Therefore, organizations must value ways of working instead of only results to start recognizing them. On the other hand, organizations and leaders must know what people and teams’ value to be able to recognize them. Moreover, true recognitions must not be confounded with rewards, hence shouldn’t be based only in money. Furthermore, since recognitions impact on people’s emotional brain are highly contextual and sometimes a kind word, sincere handshake or simple present can have a powerful recognition effect in its the right place at its the right time. To summarize, a behavioural based recognition program will empower organizations not only to create a new and sustainable way of working but also to shape a high-performance organizational culture. To conclude, William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, stated: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated”. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that recognitions deal with a very sensitive part of ourselves, hence organizations and leaders must use them wisely and with respect.

Thanks for Reading.

Marcelo Sauro is an internationally experienced performance and improvement senior manager. He holds an Executive MBA and Master of Science degrees and has helped people and organizations to transform themselves. Not only he led E2E transformations in Global Business Services, R&D, Supply Chain and Finance organizations at all levels within the LATAM and EMEA Regions, but he is also experienced in several industries including Life Science, Healthcare, Insurance, Fintech, Technology, Telecoms, FMCG, Chemicals, Automotive, Energy and Mining. Since 2015, he has been researching and developing content in agile and resilience through Value Ways, while working under contract for customers such as MetLife, Novartis, Vertiv (Emerson NP) and Experian among others. Previously, he worked for more than 7 years as Master Black Belt for a LATAM-based consulting group, which had ASQ, Qualtec and Oriel as business partners. Prior to that, he worked for more than 10 years at BASF and GSK in positions of growing responsibility in the area of Operational Excellence. Marcelo is currently working at Ferring's “International PharmaScience Center” (IPC) for the Global R&D organization in Copenhagen. To find out more please visit

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