This has been a heady time for Small Fish. And I appreciate the honor, really.

But if the major incentive to recognize people is merely to make them feel good, there’s not going to be much lasting impact. We’ve seen that with round-robin “employee of the month” programs where folks get a reward for … something?

We need to have recognition that’s more focused than that.

In my mind, the best purpose for a recognition is to reinforce the values and purpose of an organization. If one of our values is that we’re all equal team members, then by all means find a way to recognize each person, no matter what position they’re in.

But if one of our values is to be market-leading, then search for those who are helping you to achieve that goal. At the very least, articulate recognition of peoples’ contributions in terms of how it helps us stay on the leading edge.

Notice that this latter example tends to reward some jobs more than others. So we might have to create a balance of recognitions so that we don’t continually demotivate people in the other positions.

And recognition programs don’t need to go on forever. Short-term programs can help focus people on timely issues and build up energy for extra contributions.

Because we all appreciate the positive feedback, even in subtle forms.