How to train past emotional barriers to properly give recognition.
By Roy Saunderson
Many studies and books have been written over the years about the importance of Emotional Intelligence or “EI,” which was popularized by Daniel Goldman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” While debates and controversies abound as to the validity of EI development, there is no doubt we each have different innate traits or learned abilities for connecting emotionally with others in the workplace.
One problem with learning programs focused on changing managers’ abilities to become more effective at expressing appreciation to employees is the affective or emotional knowledge and abilities of individuals to begin with. Most learning programs rely on a cognitive or knowledge-based focus and skill development approach.
However, emotions are fickle and can’t just be poured into a person and pulled out when needed to motivate others. So succeeding with any meaningful feedback and recognition learning initiative requires first acknowledging and connecting with one’s emotions.
Most EI studies and learning programs follow most of these steps:
Self-awareness: Self-assessment of emotional intelligence or perceived self-confidence can help generate a baseline. In addition, 360-degree feedback can be a powerful tool to learn how others read you at work. Perceptions are real in the eyes of the beholder.
Emotional discrimination: Try self-reflection or more concrete actions such as journaling and tallying emotions experienced during a day to find out what feelings you go through at work and what makes you tick.
Other awareness: Move away from yourself and become “other” focused. Simply stop, look, and listen to the people you work with. Ask questions and listen. Monitor your ratio for listening versus talking. Watch non-verbal expressions and clarify with questions such as, “I sense you were frustrated when you were talking about the redesign process; is that the case?”
Observation skills: If you want to catch people doing things right, you have to go out and play catch. Prioritize relationship building and practice management by walking around. Successful leaders spend more than 50 percent of their time creating relationships with people in their organization.
Motivation and commitment to change: Nothing will change if the learner isn’t willing to change and participate in learning. Working with a senior leader and contracting the learner’s commitment to a trial of improving his or her interpersonal skills will be strong incentive.
Peer or mentor support: Getting connected on an emotional level in the workplace can sound “touchy-feely.” Setting up colleague groups to share the journey with or having a senior leader coach learners along will create the support to leverage progress.
Practice expressing recognition: A common barrier to recognition giving is not knowing how to do it or what to say. Nuances of interpersonal communications must be learned, such as being specific about what a person did and how his or her contribution made a difference versus simply saying, “Good job.”
Mastering expressing recognition: Managers must be willing to solicit and accept feedback on giving positive feedback and recognition to employees. They must be humble enough to adapt and adopt the principles and comments they receive from others.
Can EI training make a difference when it comes to developing employee recognition skills? In an American Express example, those who completed an EI program increased a measure of optimism and coping skills by 13.5 percent and produced a 20 percent increase in insurance sales revenue over a control group.
Essentially, as we better understand our emotional selves, we will be enabled to express the positive emotions that those around us often crave to make employee recognition essential in the workplace.
Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and president of the Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right!” It focuses on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@RealRecognition.com or visit www.RealRecognition.com.