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How to Recognize the People Who Make It Happen

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Over the past few years, the way we work has changed dramatically. Many organizations have increased flexibility, adjusted to hybrid working schedules, or have gone permanently remote, possibly even getting rid of their office spaces.

Changes to the way we work didn’t come easily. IT teams have helped mobilize thousands of virtual offices and continued to keep them running. Facility and production teams continue to work around the clock to ensure our workplaces meet new safety and hygiene standards. Communication teams continue to adapt, ensuring their leaders have the most accurate and up-to-date information. All of this new (and in some cases increased) activity begs the question: Are we recognizing the people who make it happen?

We need to let our team members know how much we appreciate all they’re doing to respond to the changing landscape. While we have technology tools to help us stay connected, the uncertainty and rapid pace of change can foster feelings of isolation and disconnection.

One of the most effective ways to build connections is to let employees know that you see them and value their efforts. Recognizing team members for their contributions increases trust, productivity, and satisfaction which are key to building high-performing teams. Nearly 90% of employees who received recognition or thanks from their boss in the past month indicated higher levels of trust in that boss. As for those who received none? Only 48% indicated they trust their higher-ups. That’s a big gap we can’t afford, especially now.

Many things may be in short supply these days, but one resource that never runs out is recognition. People are working hard to make sense of the new environment. Recognition is a way to breathe life into their efforts and encourage them to continue even when the outcome is unknown. Studies show praise and commendation from managers is rated the top motivator for performance beating out both financial and other non-cash incentives.

Want to make an impact? Here’s a simple formula to let your people know that who they are and what they do matter:

  • Feeling: Share the primary feeling. How did you feel about it?
  • Behavior: Acknowledge the specific behavior. What did they do?
  • Impact: Connect to the impact. How did it affect you, the team, and the business?

Sure, we’ve all done it – fired off that text or email to say “great job” or “well done” before moving on to the next task. Instead of sending a quick reaction, it takes just a couple of minutes to create a thoughtful response using the Feelings, Behavior, Impact (FBI) formula.

As an example, I’ll share one I delivered to one of my teammates, Grace, this week. I could have said “Thanks for helping me” when Grace shared her time and expertise. But instead, I used the formula above to let her know what it meant to me:

“Grace, I’m so grateful for your help today with the new CRM project. I feel confident and prepared for our campaign (Feelings). Your thorough knowledge of the system, patience with the team’s questions, and ability to clearly communicate relevant solutions (Behavior) help the entire organization be more efficient and effective and we are better positioned for success thanks to you. (Impact)

You can put these three elements in any order. What’s critical to creating a meaningful connection is to include how their behavior made you feel.  Sharing a piece of yourself by expressing that feeling shows your willingness to be vulnerable (shows you’re human, too) and builds stronger relationships. It only takes a few minutes to gather your thoughts for a personalized recognition message that can help bridge the distance and deepen the relationship.

Recognition never grows old when it’s genuine, proportional, and timely. This isn’t about giving everyone a trophy for showing up; it’s about being authentic and appreciative in a way that is appropriate to the effort and doing so in a timely manner – not waiting 8 months to mention it in a performance review.

In the wake of “social distancing” and an anticipated continuation of more remote teams going forward, the delivery can be a challenge. Here are a few things you and your team can do to make recognition a meaningful habit:

  • Handwrite the note. Taking time to express your gratitude in a handwritten note boosts positive emotions and well-being for both the sender and the recipient. If you can, deliver the note in person or drop in the mail. Turns out, 76% of people save handwritten notes.
  • Send a picture of the note. If you can’t deliver the note in person, text or email a photo of it to show you care enough to invest your most precious resource – time.
  • Start your meeting with recognition. Model the behavior you want to see more of in your team. Whether on video or in person, begin your next meeting by sharing a recognition message and inviting others to do the same. It feels good to see others recognized for their good work and boosts the morale of the team.

When thinking about what to recognize, it’s easy to focus on achievement like meeting a goal or making a deadline. That’s good, but it’s only one-third of the potential.

Here are three categories to keep in mind as you look for ways to celebrate your team:

  • Excellence: Those tangible and objective measures of success like hitting a sales quota, delivering a new product to the market, or completing a project on time.
  • Effort: The energy invested along the way, regardless of the outcome. Recognize the at-bats and the attempts when people pilot an idea and then share their learning.
  • Example: The way people embody the vision and values of the organization. Call out the times when someone goes above and beyond to help another person. Give a shout-out to those who do the right thing for a customer, especially when it’s hard on them.

No need to wait for the next meeting, start now:

  • Take five minutes to brainstorm three people you can recognize this week.
  • Carry a few cards with you so you can write a note the next time you have a few minutes.
  • Make it a habit. Carve out fifteen minutes in your schedule to write these notes and block it on your calendar.

Take the opportunity to re-purpose any free time in your week to let people know you see them, you value what they’re doing, you appreciate their effort, and you are proud of the example they set for others.

Meet the Author

Susan Conrad


Susan Conrad is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur. As a long-term practitioner, she thrives on connecting the goals of people and businesses to ensure both achieve their full potential. Relationship- and results-driven, Susan has been a catalyst for many teams and organizations in their pursuit of growth and success.

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