When was the last time someone recognized the excellence of your work? Maybe it was a simple compliment made in passing or maybe it was something bigger. Whatever form that praise came in, it felt great, didn’t it? And far from causing you to rest on your laurels, it most likely inspired you to redouble your efforts.
Appreciation for a job well done is a universal human desire. This desire is even stronger in today’s younger generations, who have been reared with lavish praise and affirmation. For the younger generations under the age of 37 in the workplace today, recognition and positive feedback are a paramount motivating force. They thrive on recognition at all levels and will work hard to achieve it.
What we celebrate, we multiply. To celebrate excellence effectively, we must:
- Stay in touch with the team. It’s easy to lose the pulse of your coworkers in the busyness of our everyday work, but knowing who the true performers are will help you single out and praise the behavior that is making a positive difference in your organization.
- Seek out excellence and reward it. The rewards for excellence do not have to be extravagant; many times, the public recognition of high-caliber work is a meaningful reward in itself. Public praise and recognition not only reward the recipient, but also encourage others to pursue excellence in their own roles.
- Champion and model the behavior of excellence. A culture where excellence is the norm starts at the top. If you’re in a leadership role, those around you are looking to you. Use your influence to positively affect the status quo and make excellence the standard, not the exception.
- Raise the organizational standards and expectations. Give your team a clear vision of where you want to go as an organization and why you want to get there. Bring your team on board for the journey and allow them to share in the pride and ownership of organizational success.
I believe that the celebration of excellence should be interwoven in the fabric of every organization. Of course it should take place spontaneously, but there should also be structures in place that facilitate recognition wherever and whenever it is deserved.
As a consultant in education and workforce development, I get to see excellence in action every day. There are so many unsung heroes who are improving outcomes for their students, employees, and communities. And I wanted to do something to celebrate them. That’s why my team and I created the Wade Award, which is bestowed on individuals who are passionate about what they do, share and spark that passion in others, and make a difference every day.
Maybe you’re not in a position to institute formal structures within your organization to celebrate excellence and give public recognition. There are still many ways you can contribute to an organizational culture that celebrates excellence. Go ahead and share that compliment you’re thinking but haven’t voiced. Keep your eyes open for the everyday excellence that can so easily go unnoticed. Nominate someone for the Wade Award. And most of all, strive for excellence in your own work. Like the bus driver Wade who made such a difference in my life, your example may inspire many more people than you ever dreamed possible.