Recognise This! – Often the best “attitude adjuster” is encouraging all employees to pause and recognise the good work of those around them.

Surveys are tricky things. Especially one-question, multi-choice polls with little context. Sure, they’re fun and occasionally insightful (I enjoy running them on my own blog), but reading and interpreting the results should always be taken with a grain of  salt.

Case in point –  a recent poll in SmartBrief on Leadership:

Whom would you rather lead as a member of your team?

  • High performer with an attitude problem: 44%
  • Low performer with a great attitude: 33%
  • Mediocre performer with an average attitude: 23%

Frightening results when taken at face value. Mike Figliuolo’s take in response to those results is pitch-perfect:

“Your team members who might not be high performers see the high performers get away with having an attitude problem. It damages morale, and that attitude might even rub off on average or low performers. Address the attitude issue head-on. Explain to high performers that their attitude is hurting the team and its performance. If they’re true high performers, they’ll want to achieve in all areas, including having a positive attitude.”

I like the idea of a definition change – you won’t be classified as a high-performer if your attitude doesn’t reflect a positive, supportive desire to help others achieve. What’s a key element of such an attitude? Actively recognising and praising others for the good work they do. This outward expression of recognition indicates the high performer knows he/she isn’t achieving such stellar results alone. Their success is backed by an entire cadre of people making it possible for them to continually succeed.

That humility, reflected as a desire to acknowledge and recognise the contributions of others, can change the attitude of the individual as wall as the entire “attitude” of the company as reflected in the company culture.

Cuba Gooding Jr’s Oscar acceptance speech is an excellent example of the “pay it forward” nature of recognition. People love to be acknowledged and recognised for the good work they do. Once recognised themselves, they often recognise others, especially those who helped them achieve their success.

Cuba Gooding Jr Accepting Oscar (Click through to watch video)

Appreciation is contagious. You can see it in how the crowd responds to Cuba’s joy. The same effect can be seen in the workplace. Contagious joy in the sharing of recognition and appreciation.