Make recognizing the efforts of your people part of your plan

A strong corporate culture has become an essential element to finding success in business. If you’ve worked at Ikea for a year, you’re eligible for up to four months of paid parental leave, even if you’re only a part-time employee. S.C. Johnson & Son has an on-site employee concierge to take care of errands. And Deloitte allows employees to take up to four unpaid weeks off for any reason. 

If you are a smaller company, you might be thinking that there is no way you can compete with the perks offered at these larger corporations. On face value, that may be true. While you might not be able to offer the same number of days off or the generous perks, you can make up for it in other areas, like flexibility and maybe more important, recognition.

This effort to shine a light on examples of top performance has to start at the top.

As the leader, you set the tone and it’s easy to focus on what’s not going right and what needs to be changed. That’s why you have to have an intentional plan for how you are going to recognize your employees. You can try to fake it by just crossing off items on a checklist. However, for a recognition program to work, it comes down to your attitude and what’s really in your heart. This shouldn’t be something you feel required to do, it should be something you want to do. You have to take the time to talk to people and let them know you care. People want recognition, they want to know you care and that they aren’t just a line item on a spreadsheet. Handing out random awards isn’t true recognition; there has to be feeling behind them.

If you treat people with respect, employees will return that respect, even if there comes a time when you have to make some difficult personnel decisions. They’ll know what’s in your heart.

So take the time to recognize people for the little things and spend as much time focusing on the positive as on the challenges you still face. Do the right thing when times are tough, and celebrate big when good times return.

As leaders, we sometimes make ourselves out to be the victim, but leadership is actually a blessing. At the end of the day, it’s all about being a good steward of our flock and caring about people by giving them the recognition they deserve.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network