Want to be a more effective manager? One key is to develop an environment where your team members can be motivated to excel. The secret to developing a motivating work environment is the use of positive consequences such as recognition.

Research over the years has led to the development of what some have called the "Greatest Management Principle in the World" - you get what you reward. Sincere, regular and positive recognition and rewarding of desired behaviors is common sense - but not common practice. A recent Gallup poll of thousands of employees found that 65% claimed to have received no praise or recognition the past year!

Everyone likes to be recognized and shown appreciation. William James was one of the most respected psychologists who ever lived. After a lifetime of research and practice he concluded that most people's greatest need is the need for appreciation. On-going recognition and praise makes a person feel appreciated, important and stimulates the intrinsic motivation to excel. Recent Gallup research found that individuals who receive regular recognition and praise:
· increase their individual productivity
· increase engagement among their colleagues
· are more likely to stay with their organization
· receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers
· have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job

On the other hand, a recent survey by Robert Half Associates showed that the number one reason for leaving a company was "limited recognition and praise."

There are specific actions we can take to improve our recognition practices. Following are the "Top Ten Ways to Motivate Employees" (adopted from recognition expert Bob Nelson's latest book entitled Motivating Today's Employees):

1) Provide Personal Thanks. Mark Twain said that "he could go two months on just one compliment." JR Tolkien was quoted as saying "kind words cost little, but are worth much." A landmark research study showed the number one thing that employees wanted was "full appreciation for work done."

2) Make Time for Employees. What kind of message do we send when we meet with and listen to employees? That we care. John Maxwell captures the importance when he says "people don't care how much we know, until they know how much we care."

3) Provide Specific Feedback. Employees want to know how they are personally doing, and how the department and organization are doing. Also, catch people doing things right and thank them!

4) Create an Open (and fun) Environment. Having an open, fun and trusting environment helps build a sense of camaraderie and encourages new ideas and innovation.

5) Provide Information. If we don't provide information, a vacuum is created which is filled by the "rumor mill" - which is invariably negative. The three keys to being a great manager are "communication, communication and communication" according to the heralded CEO of Portland General, Peggy Fowler.

6) Involve Employees in Decisions. Involving employees in decisions that impact them results in buy-in and well as better quality decisions.

7) Reward High Performers. Promoting and rewarding people based on their performance (not politics) sends the right signals. Also, dealing with poor performers so they improve or leave strengthens the team and really helps morale.

8) Develop a Sense of Ownership. Provide employees a sense of ownership in their work and in their work environment.

9) Give Chances to Grow and Learn. Most employees desire to grow and learn - and helping them recognizes their contributions and potential.

10) Celebrate Successes. Taking the time to celebrate the successes of individuals, the team and the organization builds morale and the motivation to strive for future successes.

Many of us have good intentions to show more recognition - but often fall short. Here are a few ideas to help build recognition into our regular routines:

Use a "To-Do" List or Daily Planner. At the beginning of the week, write down the names of your team members and others you intend to recognize during the week ahead. Catch someone doing something right, recognize them, and then mark your list. On your planner you can record birthdays, anniversary dates with the company, etc.

Use email and/or voicemail. Send positive, personal messages to let someone know you appreciate their work. At the end of the day, leave a positive voice mail thanking them for their excellent work that day, and express appreciation for them being on your team. I guarantee when they come to work the next morning, and that's the first thing they hear, they will have a great day!

Use Thank You notes. Have a stack of notes readily available. Send hand written notes on a regular basis. One manager told me she has a standing appointment for one hour on Friday afternoons that she uses to write notes and do other forms of recognition.

Let me close with a quote from Saint Paul: "Give everyone what you owe him if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7). Good luck to you as recognize your employees and let them know how much you appreciate them!
Wes Friesen, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 810,000 customers. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MailCom, IPMA and XPLOR. He manages the bill production and payment processing teams with the able assistance of supervisors Eric Houger, Tom Laszlo, Gil Rodriguez and Elyssia Carlblom. Wes can be contacted at Wes.Friesen@pgn.com.