In recent years I’ve learned a lot about the importance culture plays in an overall business. Throughout a 20+ year career in business leadership, I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand varying cultures and observe those cultures’ impact on the business as a whole.  As a result of those experiences, I now believe that culture is a top overall predictor of an organization’s future success.

Culture weaves in and out of all aspects of an organization in many ways, and in essence, it is the compass that influences nearly all business strategies and direction. This is true because people run businesses, and those people are interconnected, and through established beliefs, subsequent decisions are made that impact the business outcomes. We’ve all seen examples of both extremes in the new, those organizations that thrive because of the importance they place on people, and those examples of organizations that have other priorities and sometimes end up a mix of troubles.

In its simplest form, culture has the most obvious impact on the area of talent. Topics such as employee engagement and turnover all end up in either a hard cost or soft cost account where deposits and credits into these accounts are made with every employee decision or action.

Over time, these deposits and credits end up with a net positive or negative outcome that an organization either benefits from or needs to contend with if those outcomes are undesirable. A simple example is this; if a retail organization has low morale or a poor culture, customer service will be poor. Retail companies must spend more marketing and advertising dollars to compensate for a higher turnover of lost customers.

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Those leaders who create positive and engaging cultures are the leaders who often deliver world-class results and overall lead successful organizations. Building and fostering positive cultures is a big subject, but one piece of culture I’ve seen has the most significant influence: authentic recognition.

“Unless recognition is sincere and well-meaning, it should not be given. It’s more damaging to be fake or disingenuous than to withhold recognition altogether.”

3 Ways to Build Culture Through Authentic Recognition

  1. Go Beyond the Job – Making recognition authentic begins with making it human. That means moving past the typical birthdays recognition, work anniversaries, and employee of the month programs and moving closer to employees’ personal lives. The most impactful moments of my career had come from those leaders who uniquely touched me when I needed them most. Those times were authentically sincere, and as a result, they solidified my dedication to those leaders and businesses. You can do the same by staying aware of your team’s overall well-being and staying attuned to opportunities to step in and provide support and words of encouragement.
  • Be Sincere – If the recognition you are giving or planning to give is not sincere, don’t do it. Disingenuous recognition can cause more harm than good. Insincere or obligatory recognition does not feel good. It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved and should be avoided whenever possible. Alternatively, giving sincere recognition positively impacts both the employee and the culture. To be sincere, take a moment to gather your thoughts, clear your head of any negative experiences and instead put in your mind the idea that you are about to impact someone’s life personally. Share how you feel and care about the other person’s wellbeing. It’s ok to let your guard down a little and be human for a few moments, even in the workplace.

“If you really care about your team, you will tell them the truth.”

  • Practice Honesty – Authenticity involves being honest. Telling people the truth is critical to building a culture that values people and prioritizes recognition.  Of course, always practice professional and private coaching but don’t hold back on being honest with those you work with. They will appreciate it, you will appreciate it, and the business will appreciate it. Too often, the damage is caused to both people and companies because it’s uncomfortable for many people to share uncompromising news honestly. Honesty is a two-way street, so I always encourage all leaders to be ready and willing to hear feedback from the team, both good and bad.

Building a culture that values authentic recognition can start with you. It can start today. Putting these insights into practice will feel good to you and those you choose to recognize. These positive feelings are contagious and can spread quickly across the team.

One Comment

  1. Leo Burnett says:

    Interesting statement about being sincere to employees. It’s been countless times my employer will say good job through out the year, but it very rarely comes off as genuine and authentic. So, I don’t actually feel like I did a good job. Good read, thanks for the info!

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