When planning projects, we set the objectives, schedule the work and mark the essential milestones. Once things get rolling, we often forget to celebrate the “moments” or events along that motivate others and make the effort worth working for.

Identify the moments upfront

My recommendation?  When a project is initiated, identify the markers along the timetable that will be significant developments. Make sure someone on the team knows that part of his/her job is to reward the team when the marker is achieved or you will miss the moment.

Know what will be appreciated

Recognition delivered inappropriately can be more like punishment – find out how team members and the team as a whole like to be recognized. Sometimes a simple thank you from someone important is enough – it shows that the effort is recognized and that the work being done significant.  Of course, tokens and even more tangible gifts are often appreciated.

Deliver at the right time

Timing is everything. The closer the recognition is to the event, the better – instantaneous is great but generally not possible – if rewards come too late, the “moment” has passed and the recognition seems less genuine.

Use the ‘thank-you’ formula

When celebrating an achievement, it is important to the individual and the team to understand why they are being thanked/recognized.

Here’s a simple formula I use for thanking people:

  1. Say thank you and state what the thanks is for: Sally, thanks for speaking up at today’s meeting.
  2. Say why that achievement is important to you, the person giving the thanks: The points you raised are critical to the project and I am glad we had an opportunity to discuss them.
  3. Tell the person what specifically they contributed to the achievement: You showed real courage raising some potentially controversial topics and your diplomacy in doing so was remarkable.
  4. Thank them again: Thanks for making the meeting constructive and productive.

Of course, it’s never too late to say thank you but well-timed recognition goes a long way in building relationships.