I missed dinner this evening as I worked late and then attended
a charitable event which the firm was sponsoring. Many of the
people taking part in the program were volunteers, who were
supporting the organization to raise money for this organization
that assists seniors in the Toronto community. Why were they doing
this? It wasn't for money; it wasn't for career
advancement; it wasn't to beat someone at something. There was
something greater at play here.
So, here I am, late at night, parked in front of my computer and
thinking about what motivates people to be the very best that they
can be, whether at work, at social interaction or at play. Cynics
amongst us will say that we work to make money; we volunteer to
help other less fortunate people (likely inspired by a great many
other catalysts); and we play to satisfy our competitive spirit. To
repeat a refrain from a well known song, "Is That All There
Is," these are the more obvious reasons for working,
volunteering and playing.
However, in all of these activities, I believe there is the need
for each one of us to be recognized by others for our efforts and
contributions. How many times have I heard a person exclaim:
"I could never please my parents," or 'my efforts are
just not appreciated – I'm taken for granted"?
What is lacking for these individuals to feel important, energized
and willing to do it over and over again?
I believe that it is recognition that each one of us craves.
Recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people. Recognition
is a communication tool that reinforces and rewards the most
important outcomes people create for their family, their business
colleagues, their sports team members, etc. When you recognize
people effectively, you reinforce the actions and behaviours you
most want people to repeat.
I would like to repeat this last sentence for emphasis!
I am not referring here to employer sponsored recognition
programs, which reward for performance in terms of money's
worth. These are important and are proven methods for inspiring
people to greater achievements. Rather, I am talking about the
importance of recognizing our peers on a day to day basis for being
who they are and for doing what they do. It requires energy to look
about you, each and every day, and recognize your colleagues for
the things that they do, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Is it
better to give than to receive? Yes – just watch the
facial expression and the body language of the recipient of the
recognition; the 'donor' will receive back a great
How to give recognition
It is easy to give recognition. You need to:
Be generous to others.
Stop being overly critical. Make your criticism constructive
and don't offer it until you have first been
Consciously look around for opportunities to reward your
colleagues with recognition.
Do it when you first see or hear of some action/accomplishment
(i.e. don't wait until "the milk goes sour").
I will conclude with a list of all the excuses one could give
for not recognizing others and my rebuttal to each point.
I don't know how. (Do it a few times and it will
become your modus operandi.)
I don't have the time. (It doesn't take much
time to say 'great job' or 'thank you'.)
People don't care. (Oh really?)
It's not my job. (Supporting an environment in
which people are acknowledged is everyone's job.)
I don't believe in rewarding people for simply doing
their jobs. (Agreed, but we are not talking about an award or
a reward. We are talking about an acknowledgement or reinforcement
that will increase the likelihood that people will continue to do
It becomes meaningless if done too much. (Show me an
environment with TOO MUCH recognition.)
I don't receive it, why should I give it? (Because
it is the right thing to do and the more you give, the more you
About the Author
Eric Bornstein is a partner with Soberman LLP,
a public accounting firm based in Toronto. He served as the
Managing Partner of the firm from 2001 until December 2010. During
that time, he was responsible for ensuring the continual delivery
of optimal client service and was responsible for the firm's
strategic direction and initiatives.
Today, Eric wears a few hats in the firm: he is the partner in
charge of the firm's Risk Consulting practice and he is also
the International Liaison partner to Crowe Horwath International,
the international accounting body of which Soberman LLP is a
Eric is a frequent speaker, writer and consultant, and his focus
on is business matters such as governance, transition, succession
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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