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January 9, 2011

What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated

Blog from Tracy Butz of Think Impact Solutions 

Recognition and appreciation are not meant to be one-time events.  To build a culture of recognition, it needs to be done regularly and often.  People at all levels should be regularly thanking and appreciating others.  But why isn’t this the case?  Why does this seem to not happen as often as it should? 

One reason might be because showing recognition is an “important, but not urgent” action.  The crises of the day can get in the way of someone taking notice of a recognizable achievement, and then making the effort to appreciate that accomplishment becomes even one more additional step. 

Another reason for us not recognizing others as often as we should may be because the leaders believe that their employees are well compensated; they should be doing these types of activities and shouldn’t need additional appreciation for them.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall a time when I said to myself or aloud, “Wow, I really didn’t deserve that thank you.”  

A potential third reason employees aren’t recognized on a regular basis is that as human beings, we just may forget to do it.  If only the act of showing appreciation was a habit.  Just as bad habits can continue, good ones can too.  Try to consciously remind yourself to watch for opportunities to acknowledge great behavior.  The more you initially watch for it, the more top of mind it becomes, and then the more comfortable and natural it will become for you. 

At home, my husband and I use a reward ticket system for our three boys.  When chores are handled and/or we want to recognize some random act of kindness, we feel it is important to recognize and reward that behavior.  Then, for every eighteen tickets obtained, they earn $20 in return.  When they were younger, we got away with giving much smaller items and far less money.  But it actually has allowed us to have a Butz e-commerce household, with the boys having the freedom to spend their earned money on items they want, and the parents not being asked to buy this and buy that every other day.  It has worked so successfully, some days I can hardly believe it.  

For example, if one of the boys asked if they can help prepare dinner, or help vacuum the house, which trust me, is not an everyday occurrence, I certainly want that behavior to continue.  If I do nothing to acknowledge it, shame on me, as it likely won’t ever get repeated.  However, if one of the boys does demonstrate an act of kindness, I am the first one to jump up and hand out a few tickets.  I want to reinforce those behaviors that I definitely want repeated, whether at home or elsewhere when they eventually leave the nest.  

Whether it is poor behavior or incredibly great behavior, if I provide attention, that specific behavior seems to repeat itself.  If I show appreciation to others, they often show appreciation to others as well.  Those individuals then show appreciation to more people yet.  Recognition and appreciation are contagious.  Simple acts of kindness go such a long way to make the world a better place.  As human beings, the need to feel appreciated is universal – we all want and eventually need it.  Take a few moments this week to recognize five people for small acts of kindness or good behavior.  Believe it or not, you may be the one walking away feeling better than even they did.

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