How to Be a Legendary Leader in 3 Steps

Employee Rewards

It’s no secret that employee recognition is an important factor in worker morale.

After all, management may make the big bucks and get stuck with the tough decisions, but it’s the workforce that takes care of the day-to-day grind that is the heart of the business.

Employee Appreciation

Happy employees are ones who are appreciated for their hard work, while the ones who feel ignored or undervalued tend to negatively affect the entire system.

You can see article after article on how one can properly show employee appreciation. And it’s up to you as a leader to tailor those suggestions into a strategy that works best for your company, but while you do that, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Step 1: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Employee appreciation doesn’t need to be all encompassing.

For example, have you ever seen a parent praise their child for doing something mediocre and expected, like clean up a mess that they had made or behave themselves during a car ride? This kind of praise is very positive and beneficial for young children; it trains them to develop good habits and strong self image.

However, when it comes to adults, it’s just not necessary.

The employee whose job it is to handle sales calls doesn’t need to be praised for doing so. It is, after all, the most basic function of their position. They should be treated well, certainly, but that doesn’t mean that they should be rewarded or publicly praised.

If they or other team members begin to suspect that recognition and appreciation is handed out arbitrarily, they may begin to feel as though they are being patronized. Even worse, they might get the idea that mediocre performance is ‘good enough,’ and cease striving to improve their work.

On the other hand, an otherwise hard working, effective employee who just happens to arrive a few minute late every day should be allowed that small indulgence, provided that it doesn’t begin to get out of hand. Don’t focus too much on the little things if you really want to effectively show employee appreciation.

Step 2: Recognize and Accept Employee Differences

Many employee recognition tips suggest presenting rewards such as parties, badges, or other attention-grabbers for excellent performance. However, before you go rewarding your team member with an over-sized novelty hat and a sticker that says “Great Job!” you need to do a little research.

You see, not every person reacts the same way to attention.

Some of the best employees on your team might be uncomfortable as the center of attention, and you need to respect that. It is not your responsibility to pull Shy-Sara or Quiet-Connor out of their shells. These are adults who have had their whole lives to determine exactly who they are, and they will not appreciate being pulled from their comfort zones, especially as a ‘reward’ for their accomplishments.

The best-case scenario is that they will simply smile and then continue with their project, while the worst-case scenario is that they will learn to avoid discomfort by toning down their work performance. Find out a little bit about your employees before you try to shower them with praise; not everyone enjoys what you think they’ll enjoy.

Step 3: Be Sincere

If your employees are really doing exceptional work, then that should make you want to reward them. That’s wonderful. However, if you feel like they don’t really deserve the praise you’re giving them, then chances are it’s all going to come through as insincere.

There are few things worse than insincere compliments; they deaden the soul, and rob all future recognition of its meaning.

But what can you do?

If employee performance is low, then moral might be the cause.

How can you increase moral without offering disingenuous praise?

The answer is simple:

  • Get a feel for what the employees are doing.
  • Get down and spend some time with them.
  • Listen to their gripes and annoyances without being judgmental.
  • Take some time and (if possible) give them a hand with their work for an hour or two.

If you walk a few miles in their shoes, you’ll develop an empathy and understanding for what they go through. You might even be able to determine a root cause for their unhappiness. Then, once you’ve gotten to know them, you’ll have a much easier time rewarding them for what they do.

Let them know that you understand how difficult it can be, but you appreciate their efforts in the face of trials. How is this different from simply patting them on the backs and saying good job? The answer is all in the sincerity. Get to know your team, and you won’t have any problem appreciating them.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. sumeetjadhav on August 30, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Reblogged this on Dreamers.

  2. Larry Walker on September 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Robert, Your piece is excellent. I was impressed with your thoughtful insights — and — the pragmatic approaches you suggest for what are often very difficult situations. Thanks.