March 26


…the act of recognizing; state of being recognized; acknowledgment; acknowledgment of status; a sign, token or indication of recognizing. Chambers 9th Dictionary

Have you ever experienced that warm glow of satisfaction as someone thanks you for a job well done? Or that fizzing irritation as something you said or contributed is ignored, or worse attributed to someone else? I recently spoke to someone who had won that month’s ‘Shining Light’ award given by her team for something she had achieved. From her smile and enthusiasm to tell me I could see it meant something to be recognised in this way.

Psychologically recognition is a powerful force rooted in the importance of our social relationships as part of our individual identity development. Donald Winnicott regarded recognition as the emotional response that makes our feelings, intentions and actions meaningful. Such recognition can only come from others whom we in turn value that is we recognise them and what they offer.

Charles Taylor seemed to sum up the importance of recognition when he said:

Recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need.

I see in my own coaching and development work the impact that a lack of recognition can have on people and the emotional turmoil this creates. It seems that out workplaces are not especially good at understanding the importance of recognition, despite the fact there is a wealth of research that demonstrates how valuable it is.

Research from human resources firm Bersin & Associates suggests that companies that excel at recognising their people are on average 12 times more likely than their peers to generate strong business results, including higher profitability and better market leadership positions. In addition, in organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14 percent better than in companies that do not reward and recognize employees well. They also found that for ’employees, the most important elements of a recognition program are the ability to receive specific feedback and give recognition easily. This finding is underscored by the fact that the top reason employees do not recognize each other is because there is no established way to provide recognition.’

Research by Office Team suggests there are a number of things you need to get right to acknowledge the achievements of others:

  • Get your facts straight – nothing is more embarrassing than incorrectly acknowledging a person’s name or individual accomplishment.
  • Don’t offer token gestures – The form of recognition should fit the degree of achievement.
  • Be specific – tie your acknowledgements back to specific actions so people know exactly what they did well.
  • Don’t go overboard — recognition doesn’t need to be extravagant to be effective. Small, everyday things, such as saying “thank you” or giving credit for good ideas, can be powerful.
  • Make sure you acknowledge everyone who was involved — although some people more naturally gravitate toward the limelight, don’t forget to celebrate unsung heroes who help behind the scenes.

Remember, whoever you are talking to also needs to value your recognition for it to make a difference!

The next time you do something that is acknowledged by someone else think about what it means to you.


Charles Taylor, (1992) ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in Amy Gutmann (ed.) Multiculturalism and ‘The Politics of Recognition’ Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 25-73;

Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT
March 7

Muddling Along

Muddling along

Give it our best shot

Keeping our fingers crossed

Flying by the seat of our pants

Testing the waters

Hoping for the best

Muddling through

How often in our work do we hear these expressions? While they may be said in jest there can be an underlying truth in terms of how people are facing particular challenges in their work. It would be unusual to see these terms in a business plan, they are certainly not associated with the language of rational strategy yet they are definitely part of our everyday experience.

This may in part be a reflection of the challenges of facing the white water referred to in the previous blog. Our business plans and goal statements try and smooth out the white water, they generally tell the stories of a cause and effect, linear world.

In his book ‘Learning as a Way of Being’ Vaill suggests that we find systems thinking too difficult to contemplate, we don’t want everything to be connected to everything else, we want these simple cause and effect chains so that we can take action and get results.


Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT
March 1

White Water

A Waterfall flowing over dark rocks bottom left and top right. Sun is shining in the background

Above all, the problem with our existing model of learning is that it depicts learning as an institutional activity. This existing model has been overtaken by the rate of change in organisations and society…Permanent white water not only creates extraordinary learning challenges for us  all, it also places enormous stress on the theories and forms of learning we practice to meet these challenges.


These wise words were written by the insightful Peter Vaill, a staggering 17 years ago in 1996. I’m ashamed to say I have only just come across his book – Learning as a Way of Being – and it seems to me it still has a lot to offer. Particularly, as the water feels to have got choppier than ever!

Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT