There’s always been a cult of management role models, from Alan Sugar and Donald Trump, to modern equivalents such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. These CEOs have become the celebrities of the business world: films have been made about them, their quotes litter social media channels, and trainers use them as examples of creativity, innovation and persistence.

Whilst on the face of it these celebrity CEOs can be really inspiring, what we don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes. In his book, ‘Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography’, Walter Isaacson reveals that Jobs could act like a toddler in his office, often bursting into tears if he couldn’t get his own way.  And even Jonathan Ive, Jobs’ design chief, has previously said that for Jobs “the normal rules of social engagement don’t apply”.

The L’Oréal generation

This cult of the leader has given rise to a next generation: leaders who believe that they’re worth it. Business leaders who have a blind faith in their abilities, based on a combination of self-belief and their compensation…

“I’m here so I must be talented”

Personally, that’s not very inspiring, and I don’t believe it reflects what goes on in most businesses. The leadership we see in our day-to-day roles, through our managers, isn’t always top down information and persuasion. Effective day-to-day leadership of teams needs managers to be engaged with their employees. Managers need to show an interest in what their team members did at the weekend, rather than question why they didn’t work over the weekend.

I, for one, would much rather be inspired by the people I work directly with, rather than quote a famous leader elsewhere, and this is where recognition programmes come in: they can really inspire people to go that extra mile and encourage the same behaviour in their colleagues.

Communication icrucial

Recognising employees for their work, behaviour and/or effort sends extremely powerful messages to the recipient, the rest of their team and other employees in the
business, if you communicate it properly.

That’s why communication of recognition programmes is a crucial, but often overlooked, part of a formal scheme. It’s all very well launching with a big bang, but it’s the on-going communication, through either formal communication channels, or through the grapevine, that has the most impact on employees.

Knowing who has been recognised, and why, encourages colleagues and other employees to copy behaviours, and raise their own game. And when employees feel valued, their job satisfaction levels rise, productivity increases, andthey are motivated to continue to improve their performance.

more democratic management style

Democratic management styles emphasise reward over punishment, so it’s no wonder that recognition programmes can also encourage a more democratic style of management, rather than a ‘top-down’ management model.

Employees who feel appreciated by their managers will feel more positive about their abilities, and their ability to contribute to the team. As a result they will naturally contribute more, and voice their opinions and ideas.

When you add this more democratic style to open communication at all levels of the organisation, a positive working environment, and a supportive business culture, you are empowering employees to work to highest level of capability.

great mystery

Implementing employee recognition in your organisation is an obvious thing to do. And perhaps it’s one of the great mysteries why recognition is so underutilised. Perhaps it’s because in many cases where it is implemented, it’s done badly: the wrong rewards, no clear guidelines and not tied into the organisation’s values and objectives. As a result people get a bad experience and the scheme falls by the wayside.

To make a success of employee recognition, businesses need to coach their managers how to recognise their team members properly. Only then perhaps, we can move away from the cult of the leader and towards a day-to-day workplace where employees inspire one another.