Leadership Series: Praiser
Praise and recognition, even when rebuffed or shrugged off, is a very powerful tool for elevating morale and pride in our employees.
This is the last of a six part series on leadership by Geoff Van Berkel from Calvin College and Eco Green Supply. Read the previous installments below:
One of my previous supervisors had a great tradition. On the morning of Graduation Day (the busiest and most high profile day of the year on our campus), once everything was set for the ceremonies, he would leave a hand-written note on the desk of each of his employees along with a small gift card. His note would always make mention of a personal “above and beyond” that he had witnessed that week and a heartfelt “Thank You” for efforts made to pull off a successful day.
I always looked forward to those notes- there was something about my efforts being seen and recognized that motivated me to always go above and beyond.
Often times a note or gift card isn’t needed- eye contact and a handshake with a “Thank You” or “Well Done” goes a long way to show appreciation for an employee or co-worker.
I have found that most folks I know in the Green Industry aren’t in it for the recognition. Most of us end up here because of a love for the outdoors, a passion for cultivating and growing things or the sheer joy of getting our hands in the dirt once and awhile. We don’t do this to climb the corporate ladder or for fame and fortune. Many of the rewards are in the results of our work; a beautiful edging job, the right plant in the right place, that deep green and dandelion free stand of turf are often times reward enough for a job well done. (For me its standing on a lush green soccer field at dawn with the ground fog lifting and the Toro 640’s sizzling out 24 gpm as the sun comes up….)
Add to that the knowledge of how many people will enjoy our work as they live, work, and play in the results of our labors, and the need for external recognition and praise doesn’t seem that great.
As supervisors, we always need to remember that praise and recognition, even when rebuffed or shrugged off, is a very powerful tool for elevating morale and pride in our employees.
My Sports Turf Manager, Matt, pulled off a great feat last year. We did an entire field renovation on a competition soccer pitch. We removed all green and thatch (Fraise Topping), drill seeded 100% Elite Bluegrass and grew it in ready for play in about 10 weeks. We took pictures throughout the process and I encouraged him to apply for Field of the Year through our local STMA Chapter.
The field was a success. More importantly, Matt’s application for Field of the Year was accepted and he went on to give a presentation at our Michigan Turfgrass Conference and won a plaque and award for his work on the field. He gave a 15-minute presentation in front of a group of his peers and had a chance to be recognized for his outstanding efforts. After the conference, our field paint vendor contacted Matt and asked if they could feature the field in their yearly calendar of outstanding fields nationwide.
I have to say, the recognition he received really pumped him up.
Matt brought that plaque back to our offices and now it hangs in the front lobby with other awards that professionals on our staff have brought home. That plaque tells everyone that Matt is the “best of the best” in his profession as recognized by Industry Professionals.
More than a plaque and recognition came from the award though. There was a new confidence in his abilities, and desire to continue to get better and a willingness to go above and beyond to exceed expectations. Having his efforts recognized and rewarded has had a long-term effect on his career.
All of us have the ability to give recognition in some way- a lunch out, donuts at break time, nominating your staff for awards and publicly praising and recognizing outstanding efforts. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the day to day details of supervision or management and we neglect to give our staff the feedback that could improve their day and motivate them to continue to excel.
I believe that the extra effort that it takes to find something praiseworthy is a game changer and can lead to engaged and motivated employees.
I know I have emphasized this thought in previous articles, but I am going to do it one last time. You are in the position to be a force for positive change in your place of employment! It will take time and effort on your behalf to look for ways to recognize your staff, but the investment of your time will pay dividends towards the long-term health and productivity of your people, and will prove to be the best use of your time and energy.
I firmly believe that if your first priority is to invest in your staff, then your staff will invest in their work and the results will be amazing.