Beyond the Gold Star Gesture: Recognition & Acknowledgement

Gold Medal On a Maple Leaf LanyardMy experience as a longtime volunteer to a variety of social and non-profit organizations got me thinking about how leaders rewards its teammates to encourage and develop organizational culture. In a recent dual role as volunteer board member and team leader for an industry association, I made it a point to note the interests and reasons why team members were eager to raise their hands for assignments. For volunteer roles, motivation isn’t always necessarily driven by career or monetary factors. For some it may seem obvious, reward them with praise or a blue ribbon. But, sometimes, what is valuable to one person may not be valuable to another.

For some the idea of a blue ribbon is liken to a grade school gold star. It’s nice, but not as fitting as say an opportunity to be the class captain for activities. And while for others, the same idea could be a most coveted situation to behold. Really, it boils down to knowing and understanding an individual’s aspirations. From the leadership perspective, building relationships with volunteers (much like it is with team members at work or on sports teams) is key to understanding personal and professional motivations and supporting a good fit. While from the volunteer perspective, it’s important for individuals to have a platform to share accomplishments. What I’ve come across is that the recipient will appreciate acknowledgement of their priorities with compatible opportunities in a safe development environment, just as much as the gesture of recognition.

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