It seems almost criminal that the most important lessons in human psychology are learned at the earliest stages of our growth and education but are then almost forgotten for the rest of our lives.
As children at home and in school we learn the power of recognition. Money would be of no use to a four-year-old. But a gold star on a chart, a merit badge pinned to a shirt, a little certificate from a teacher means everything. These tokens recognizing achievement become a major part of our lives. Parents and grand-parents applaud these badges of honour. And many a child will store these little mementoes in a safe place as a lasting reminder that they are brilliant.
But what we learn in our youth somehow seems to get relegated as a memory of youth, not as something that can be used in today’s world of the busy professional. In our eagerness to impress and progress, we forget about the power of recognition and start instead to focus on the power of reward. As leaders and managers we become conditioned to believe that most people will only work hard for money, and if we want them to work harder then we have to pay them more. So much so that it becomes a fear – the fear that people will only respond to money or reward.
This fear gets complemented by other fears. The fear that customers only want to complain. The fear that we have to micro-manage in order to get the best possible outcome. The fear that softness is weakness. And so we create organisations that, to the outside world, appear hostile; not quite what customers might have been looking for!
In 56 years I only ever had one good idea. The idea that customers should catch people doing things right. Everything else that The WOW! Awards has become can be attributed to other great thinkers. But what we have begun to understand from The WOW! Awards is both fascinating and contradictory…
The fear that customers only ever want to complain? The truth is that customers love to say “Thank you,” when they receive great service. It just has to be simple to do and able to be done in a way that gives frontline people recognition from the most senior management. Unfortunately, most organisations only ever ask for complaints, and so all they ever receive are complaints.
The notion that we have to micro-manage people to achieve the best results? Every time I ask people if they would like to be micro-managed or if they would they prefer to be given the responsibility, resources, and support to do a good job, guess what their reply is?
The misconception that people only respond to the incentive of money or rewards? A survey of UK salespeople conducted by Austin Benn found that “being respected is the single biggest motivator in all respondents, far more than money!” The key point here is not so much that respect is the biggest motivator” but that all respondents answered this way.
The idea that softness is weakness? What we have discovered is that the most powerful tool at our disposal is the ability to say, “Thank you,” provided that it is done in a sincere way. When that “thank you” comes from a customer and is delivered by senior management, the power is awesome.
One lady at a London Council told us that, “Receiving The WOW! Award after 33 years working for the council has made it all worthwhile.”
Napoleon said it best, “I can get people to die for a ribbon but can’t get them to die for money.”
About the Author
Derek Williams is Chief Executive and founder of The WOW! Awards. This process is now being used by organisations around the world that are passionate about creating a great place to work and a great place to be a customer.