This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Mailing Systems Technology.

Want to be a more effective manager? An important key to our leadership success is to develop great relationships with our team members and develop an environment where they are motivated to excel. The three Rs approach, if consistently applied, will help us develop relationships and create a motivating work environment. The three Rs consist of:

Recognition: Recognizing people for who they are and recognizing the value of the work they do.

Rewards: Proving tangible and intangible rewards to individuals and teams, thereby showing our appreciation for their accomplishments and results.

Respect: Showing respect for each person and their innate value as a fellow human being.

Let’s drill down and look at some key concepts related to these three Rs.

Recognition and Rewards
I agree with Dale Carnegie when he said, "People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards." Research over the years has led to the development of what some have called the “Greatest Management Principle in the World” — you get what you reward. Sincere, regular, and positive recognition and rewarding of desired behaviors is common sense — but not common practice. A Gallup poll of thousands of employees found that 65% claimed to have received no praise or recognition the past year!

Everyone likes to be recognized and shown appreciation. William James was one of the most respected psychologists who ever lived. After a lifetime of research and practice, he concluded that most people’s greatest need is the need for appreciation. Ongoing recognition and praise makes a person feel appreciated, important, and stimulates the intrinsic motivation to excel. Gallup research found that individuals that receive regular recognition and praise:

· Increase their individual productivity

· Increase engagement among their colleagues

· Are more likely to stay with their organization

· Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers

· Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job

On the other hand, a survey by Robert Half Associates showed that the number one reason for leaving a company was “limited recognition and praise.”

There are specific actions we can take to improve our recognition practices. Following are the top 10 ways to motivate employees (adopted from recognition expert Bob Nelson’s book, entitled Motivating Today’s Employees):

1) Provide personal thanks. Mark Twain said, “He could go two months on just one compliment.” JR Tolkien was quoted as saying, “Kind words cost little, but are worth much.” A landmark research study showed the number one thing that employees wanted was “full appreciation for work done.”

2) Make time for employees. What kind of message do we send when we meet with and listen to employees? We are sending the message that we care. John Maxwell captures the importance when he says, “People don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care.”

3) Provide specific feedback. Employees want to know how they are personally doing and how the department and organization are doing. Also, catch people doing things right and thank them!

4) Create an open (and fun) environment. Having an open, fun, and trusting environment helps build a sense of camaraderie and encourages new ideas and innovation.

5) Provide information. Carla O'Dell was on the mark when she observed, "If you don't give people information, they'll make up something to fill the void." The reality is, if we don’t provide information, a vacuum is created, which is filled by the “rumor mill” — which is invariably negative.

The heralded former CEO of Portland General, Peggy Fowler, emphasized the importance of communication when she suggested the three keys to being a great manager are “communication, communication, and.... communication.”

6) Involve employees in decisions. Involving employees in decisions that impact them results in buy-in as well as better quality decisions.

7) Reward high performers. Promoting and rewarding people based on their performance (not politics) sends the right signals. Also, dealing with poor performers so they improve or leave strengthens the team and really helps morale.

8) Develop a sense of ownership. Provide employees a sense of ownership in their work and in their work environment.

9) Give chances to grow and learn. Most employees desire to grow and learn — and helping them recognizes their contributions and potential.

10) Celebrate successes. Taking the time to celebrate the successes of individuals, the team, and the organization builds morale and the motivation to strive for future successes.

Many of us have good intentions to show more recognition — but often fall short. Here are a few ideas to help build recognition into our regular routines:

Use a “to-do” list or daily planner. At the beginning of the week, write down the names of your team members and others you intend to recognize during the week ahead. Catch someone doing something right, recognize them, and then mark your list. On your planner you can record birthdays, anniversary dates with the company, etc.

Use email and/or voicemail. Send positive, personal messages to let someone know you appreciate their work. At the end of the day, leave a positive voice mail thanking them for their excellent work that day, and express appreciation for them being on your team. I guarantee when they come to work the next morning and that’s the first thing they hear, they will have a great day!

Use thank-you notes. Have a stack of notes readily available so you can send handwritten notes on a regular basis. One manager told me she has a standing appointment for one hour on Friday afternoons that she uses to write notes and do other forms of recognition.

Let me close with a quote from Saint Paul: “Give everyone what you owe him… if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7). Good luck to you as recognize, reward, and respect your employees and let them know how much you appreciate them!

Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams. Wes and his teams have earned multiple awards from a variety of organizations over the years. He has extensive experience in leadership and management roles, in both the business and non-profit worlds. He is also an accomplished University Instructor and Conference Speaker. His latest book, Your Team Can Soar! Powerful Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams, can be ordered from or (under “Book”) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at