Star of the week

13 July 2015 | By Helen Sanderson

When everyone gets a prize, how do we reward the people who are doing a great job?

When my daughter Kate was in primary school, in Year 1, I remember opening her book bag at the end of the day to find a shiny, coloured certificate with ‘Star of the Week’ and her name on it. A proud parent moment. We put it up on the wall, as proud parents do, and enthused with Kate about her achievement.

The next day, in an overzealous parent way, I asked the teacher what she had got start of the week for. I was somewhat deflated when the teacher said, that they gave it to each child in turn and Kate had been next on the list.

For this, and other reasons, I have been dubious about ‘star of the week’ and ‘employee of the month’ ways to appreciate achievement.

When I was working with Owen Cooper, then CEO of Imagine, Act, Succeed, we looked at creating a culture of appreciation.  We introduced appreciation budgets to managers. We hoped that managers would use their budgets to show appreciation where colleagues had gone the extra mile in line with the values and vision of the organization. But, just like the teacher’s ‘star of the week’ the manager simply bought each member of staff an ‘appreciation’ bottle of wine.

In a work place, does rewarding across the board mean anything? The manager who gave out bottles of wine was anxious about rewarding some people and not others and this having a demoralizing effect.  Feedback is crucial to high performance – are awards the ultimate feedback? Nancy Klein talks about competition driving out creativity. Does giving recognition automatically lead to competition?

I have been looking at this with a home care provider. We are trying a new way to support people who use home care services, focusing on what matters to people, not just the tasks that are required. I was sat in a room on a very hot day in London, surrounded with paper posted on three walls where we had written our reflections on what was working and not working about introducing one-page profiles. Some teams are fully embracing this, with energy and enthusiasm. A couple are struggling.

How can we support team leaders who are struggling, and how do we celebrate the enthusiasm and achievements of others? How can we do this and avoid the ‘star of the week’ and bottle of wine for all pitfalls?

We decided on concrete actions for the manager to support her struggling team leader. This included both helping her see developing one-page profiles as a priority, and finding ways to free her time to focus on them.

One suggestion for the team who are doing well was going to the annual awards that the organisation hosts. That was a possibility – but they are ten months away, we wanted something more immediate.

We decided on an award – Flying high with one-page profiles, to reflect both their effort and achievement. Along with this, we developed a certificate, signed by the CEO. The leadership team for person-centred practices meets every month to review progress and problem solve, and this group will decide who will be recognised with a certificate and award. The recipient will also get a personal text from the CEO (not many home care staff have access to computers but they all have phones) and be mentioned in the newsletter. I hope this means that people will feel that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. It also sends a message about what is important in that organisation – that listening to people, learning what important to them, and then delivering this, is what matters most.

I will let you know what the response is, and would love to know how you show that you value and recognise colleagues contributions.





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