Do people need praise every time they do a good job?

No. If you recognized good performance every time someone did something right, you'd have no time to do anything else, and they would get bored by it.

The key is to make the recognition you provide commensurate with the quality of the job that was done. As the person's skills increase, the quality of job performance must also increase before recognition follows.

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Consider one of the most elementary of human behaviors: walking. The parents of an infant make a major production over encouraging their baby to walk. When the baby takes his very first step, the parents celebrate the occasion, haul out the video camera, and shower the baby with kisses and hugs. Kisses and hugs from Mom and Dad are powerful reinforces when you're twelve months old. The baby learns that all he has to do is take a wobbly step or two, and the love starts flowing.

But quickly, Mom and Dad raise the stakes. Just one baby step isn't enough to bring on the love fest. Now Junior has to walk all the way across the room. But when he does, the reinforcement is there again.

Gradually the child learns to walk. Reinforcement/recognition is the powerful motivator behind the child's acquisition and use of the new skill. But once he's got it, he's going to have to execute a pas de deux or run a hundred-yard dash in nine flat to get any further reinforcement for his walking ability.

The message? Use reinforcement a lot when someone is learning a new job or acquiring an unfamiliar skill. Use a lot more when someone does something remarkably well. But taper off the recognition once the skill has been acquiredyou don't really expect to be praised for tying your own shoes anymore, do you?

I don't have a budget for awards to recognize people. How can I recognize their good performance if I can't demonstrate financially that we appreciate good work?

Money is only one of your options in recognizing good performance. The most important concept about recognition comes directly from the word itself"to recognize." When you recognize something, you are aware of it, you are not ignoring it, you're paying attention to it. That is the heart of recognitionletting people know that you are aware that they performed well and that you appreciate their good work.

Recognition can be symbolized in many ways, but it always starts with awareness.

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Managers have a huge supply of tools available to them to use in recognizing good performance. Let's take a look at some that are easily available, that don't cost very much money, and that everyone seems to like:

- Saying a simple and sincere "Thank you"

- Asking an employee's advice about how to improve the department's effectiveness

- Eating lunch together

- Giving an employee a more desirable job assignment

- Writing your boss a memo about the great job she did

- Letting an employee take an extended lunch

- Forwarding a newspaper or magazine article to a subordinate

- Giving a subordinate an advance copy of a new company brochure or advertisement

- Arranging for an employee to be given a supply of business cards

- Writing a quick "Thanks!" on a Post-it Note and sticking it on a colleague's phone

- Introducing an employee to a visitor and explaining how her work contributes to the company's success

- Making a ridiculous plaque and conducting a silly presentation ceremony

- Writing the employee a favorable memo and sending a copy to her personnel file

Notice that many of the above items actually use the job as a motivator. Allowing a person to have a more desirable job assignment, or arranging for an individual to get his own business cards, or permitting an employee her choice of tasks to do, can be more valuable than any trinket.

But the most important motivator is the words that come out of your mouth. Saying "Thanks" or "Well Done!" or "I really appreciate that" is a powerful source of recognition and reinforcement.

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