04_The Power of Reward and Recognition…and Why it Matters More Than Ever!

Hosted by Quint Studer with special guest Dr. Bob Nelson

If you know Quint Studer you’re already aware that reward and recognition is one of his favorite topics. So his podcast with Dr. Bob Nelson—best known for his national bestseller 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (more recently updated as 1501 Ways to Reward Employees)—it was destined to be a lively discussion!

In difficult times like these, when people are feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it’s more critical than ever to get intentional about engagement. Reward and recognition are a huge part of keeping people motivated and committed. In this podcast, Quint and Dr. Bob will discuss:

  • What effective recognition looks like: timely, specific, tied to actions taken by the individual or group, and (if possible) connected to company values and/or purpose.
  • Why we must constantly make deposits into employees’ emotional bank account
  • How to harness the power of technology to create even more touchpoints for reward and recognition
  • Sneak peak into Dr. Bob’s keynote presentation at EntreCon.

You’ll walk away from this conversation excited and energized about the power of reward and recognition—and ready to put systems in place to leverage, build and sustain a culture of engagement in your workplace.

Quint Studer  0:03
Well, I am so excited to have our guests Dr. Bob Nelson, I’m going to call him Dr. Bob for this podcast. And we’re thrilled that he’s going to be at EntreCon. I’ve followed his work for years. And, you know, you’ve you’ve, you’ve learned from the giants of culture, high performance, I mean, you’ve just been there, and you’ve been around them. And now you’re one of those giants. So when you look at over the years, you’ve been doing this, um, Dr. Bob, on recognition reward, employee engagement on creating those high performance organizations. What have you learned, as you look backwards, the many years you’ve been touching this topic of reward recognition and engagement.

Dr. Bob Nelson  0:45
I guess one thing that pops as easier to talk about this stuff than to do it. There’s so much in any organization, there’s so many things that are holding them back and anchoring them to the past. And for so many they set the program and then they keep doing it year after year. And do we add 10% or or minus 10%? But they often don’t check to say, Hey, is it doing what we hoped it would do to begin with? Yeah. And so I recently talked to a company and the head of leadership for a major corporation about you know, what’s going on there and their breakthroughs? And I was kind of stunned that they said, Well, we have, you know, we’ve been able it took us like a year or two to to, to, to, to narrow down. The we were using 47 different leadership models. Now we have a focus down to six. Yeah, yeah, that’s, it’s like. So if they’re confused, and they’re driving it, you got to think everyone in the organization has no idea. And the rule of thumb for a lot of having worked in few corporations is like this, if we hear it about a second time, then we’ll take it seriously, you know, we’ll start to pay attention. But so don’t ever listen to the first the first way, here’s what we’re gonna do. Yeah, we’ll see, you know, so, so actually making the change is the hardest part. And, and, you know, having a plan that’s doable, that’s baby steps as the system is moving in the right direction, is there’s more to it than I think.

Quint Studer  2:24
I used to laugh. We used to try to call it scheduled spontaneity, you know, these things just don’t happen. You sort of have to structure the spontaneity and so on. And, and, and I, I promised I would people want to hear from you, not me, but it just hits me early on. When I was on my own journey, which I’m still on is I had, I had to realize that some of the things that I had heard was not correct. And some of the things I wanted to believe, were not correct, but I wanted to believe them. Because then I would not get into what I’m uncomfortable with, you know, for example, I heard this years ago was balance your positives and your negatives? Well, I then in research, well, that’s just not true. If I balance them, then they’re not going to like me. So you’ve written a lot of books. And that I think, to demystify some of the mystification to address some of the myths tell people who might not be all that familiar with some of your books about your books?

Unknown Speaker  3:23
Sure. Well, the the one I’m probably most known for is called 1001 ways to reward employees, which took this simple, common sense premise that Hey, thank people when they do a good job for you. And and that’s kind of come since notion that most people don’t do very much. And I had my my epiphany or my, my fantasy was create a resource, which only had had no, no theory, no, no dough charts that just had real life examples of what this principle looks like, and people doing it. And that’s what I set out to do. I had 28 categories. And so the book, every item in it was an actual practice that someone was doing, I tend to boil it down to the essence of here’s what they did. And here’s what happened. And you can pick up the book and open it anywhere and have a usable idea if that one doesn’t fit for you. Just turn the page and that next one might. Yeah. So that that proved to have a lot of power to it. Because instead of getting people confused about the theories and whatnot, this just shows that the principle in practice, and that that has used that basis for a number of other books and I’ve been drawn to simple principles that that are not widely applied. And the research helps to make that happen.

Quint Studer  4:54
What holds people back I used to joke with people that they must feel there’s only so many compliments they can possibly give them when they run out of them their careers over because they tend to really hold on and not want to give a lot of compliments. What what are some of the things that keeps is that they don’t believe it works as if they’re not comfortable with it. They don’t know what to do. I mean, what do you find are some of the things that hold organizations and leaders back from being more open with recognition?

Unknown Speaker  5:23
I must say that the question that you’re the issue brought up in terms of overuse that comes up frequently? Well, if I, if I overuse it, will it lose its value? Will it be watered down, because I’m praising everybody? I go? Well, it would, unless your the way you do it is, is very specific, that you’re, you do it in a timely in a specific way, for that person for that instant for what they just did. If you walk in your department, you say it was doing a great job, keep it up. That’s not gonna mean much to anyone. So don’t don’t confuse just just flattery, you know, with with specific, strategic, thank you for doing that. And, and here’s why I thought it was such a great job. And, and here, and you’re doing that, here’s the larger context, it shows me you want to be part of the team, or shows that you’re taking our quarterly goals seriously. And then if you you know, if you’re able to add a add a emotional charge, you know, do that as well. And it means so much to me that, that you took the time to do it. Right. You know, that’s, that may sound like a lot, but doing you can do all that in 10 seconds. You can do it in the hallway, you know. So it’s realizing that anytime you have the power to provide a meaningful recognition to people, no more, Mark Twain said I can live for two weeks on a good compliment. And I think it’s even larger today longer today. Because it is fast as businesses moving in the amount of high tech that’s upon us that we’re all spending our time, our time on a on a screen like we are right now. And so the human touch has gotten few and far in between. So you’ve got to make the most of those moments of truth when it comes to your people. And to catch them doing right to leave with that not not to have a balance between positive and negative and, and unfortunately, more times than not, I find managers lead with the negative. Let me tell you what you did wrong. You know, let me say we have a policy that the customer complained about this. And it’s your if you do that, then you’re already lost the lost the battle, Stephen Covey’s to say, you know, that you talk about the emotional bank account, you got to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. And so you have to, you have to lead with the positive. And then in any relationship, you do that, now you’ve got a goodwill, where you’ve shown them through your actions and behaviors, that you have their best interest at heart. And then they’ll be willing to take constructive criticism for for you. You know, it’s, it’s if you’ve made that case, through your behaviors, that the worse you behave like I I have, you know, I worked with Ken Blanchard for 10 years. And I was one point I was kind of his chief of staff. So I spent a lot of time with them. And I maximize the time side I drive in places and I’d be with him when he’s packing to go on trips. I’d be with him. When we unpack for a trip. I remember, he went on one, it was like a three month trip worldwide. And we you know, over time, you know, we spent time we got to know each other I’ve never been asking about my son Danny was three years old at the time and oh, Danny’s like obsessed with trains. And I didn’t see much more than that in here. with Ken is going on this three month trip, and he’s packing. I pick them up from the airport afterwards, come back, he’s unpacking from his trip and I’m we’re catching up and whatnot in the middle of our conversation. And Blanchard reaches into his baggage that one carry on bag for this whole trip. I don’t know how he did that. But now this bag, he pulls up this little handcarved wooden train for Dan, I would have done anything for that guy and then systematically showed that he had my best interest at heart. And that of my family. And that of my career. And at that point, you don’t want to go anywhere else. Yeah, it’s happening here, you know, so it’s only one out of four or five managers in him. So having our career that are like that, that and once you have one, you think twice about leaving because the next person might be a jerk probably will be a jerk. So you hold on to that person and you value that relationship and that means that translates into going above and beyond and putting the next mile and giving your best shot without being asked and Because you’re in a good place.

Quint Studer  10:02
What about Dr. Bob? Yeah, and you know, hit me as I’m writing down notes. It’s like Dr. Bob’s notes. It’s timely, specific, connect the dots as much as you can and bring it back to purpose and, and human touch as much as you can in this world of we’re living in right now. With so much virtuality, I’m sure you get a question about, well, gee, hmm, how can What are some ways or tips or your thing, finding things are a little bit different in the current environment, when it comes to reward recognition and employee engagement?

Unknown Speaker  10:35
Well, I think we have to harness the power of technology, you know, so, and we’ve got to create more touch points. But even even on something like zoom, for example, one of the things I, I recommend, you still got to take No, I just did a, I just did a call with the Conference Board. And, and they’re, they’re no high powered Research Center, we have a lot of issues and stuff. But they said on our call, we’re doing a new thing here for every, because everyone’s on zoom calls all the time, we’re starting off with getting to know each other a little better. And it doesn’t matter what you do, and what they did say. So everyone With you around the group here, it would just tell us what your favorite movie is, you know, it was just a fun thing. And you know, some banter, and it gave us a chance to get to know each other a little bit better. And so that’s, you can do that on a zoom call or, or you could do a praise barrage, the presence of that idea I got from the the city of San Diego, their management team, they use this that, that on, every now and then, when they had their staff meeting, they do Hey, we can do a praise barrage and they, and they, how it works as you go around to each person in the group. Again, it could be in person, or it could be on zoom, and say, Hey, as I, as I say someone’s name, like everyone else to say what you most value about working with that person, okay, start with Tony. Hundred percent positive, okay. Now, Mary, and it just did the whole thing, whole activity takes, you know, seven minutes. And I tell you to have people get real life feedback from those they work with, about things that people value about them and their relationship. And, and, and Tony’s always, always quick to bring in the quiet person or Sally’s great at summarizing, whatever they’re called out for, they’re going to do an even better job that next time, I guarantee, and then, you know, so that you can do that zoom call. And now, if next time you together, let’s do it with index cards, and everyone jot down, thank you notes, you know, the people, if you get, you get six or seven, thank you notes, no index cards with people saying, here’s what I want to thank you for the time that you put your work aside to help me, let me tell you that that is both meaningful, it speaks to purpose, but also that you can get more from that person next time, they’re gonna be even more anxious that how can I help you? And not like, I’m really go away, you know. And so it, it works, you know, and it works for, it works for the person that you give the positive feedback to. But it also works for everyone else that heard you do it, or got second hand heard that you did it, because it gives them the message that this is what gets noticed around here. If you want to stand out if you want to be a good performer, this is what gets noticed that our core values, our strategic objectives, because that’s what we talked about. That’s what we were reinforced about.

Quint Studer  13:35
You know, Dr. Bob, as I take more notes, I’m saying one, reward what you recognize gets repeated As I thought, and I love your idea. Somebody either must have heard you because I was on a zoom call the other day, and it started with if you were going to have a walk up song, you know how they do baseball players have walked up songs, what would your walk up song be? And that’s how we started, started the meeting. So that’s kind of

Unknown Speaker  14:02
fun, too, if you don’t do the same thing, but tell us where you’re from. And we know what it’s like, well, that’s the that’s the boring expected part. Let’s do something we’ve never done before. And and this variant, maybe give the different people a chance to each started. So they’re involved, it’s their thing as well.

Quint Studer  14:20
Well, weekly, and we’re, as we wrap up here, you know, we have EntreCon and Dr. Khan was started. Dr. Bob, some years back, I took some of my money, and I created this not for profit. And one of the things I really wanted to do is provide people with skill opportunities, develop their skills, particularly in small businesses, because you know, they might not get to go to the big conference, they might not get to, you know, travel and hear this in the days we traveled or even pay for many conferences. And our goal was to really introduce them to not only local talent, but get them to hear national keynotes that they might not Not have heard. And of course, your are your keynote or this year your, your our star of the EntreCon. And what you know. Yeah, there you go. So tell us at EntreCon what what would you like this audience to take away and let me explain a little bit about the audience to you. They’re normally people that work extremely hard, they’re probably got 18 or less employees in their organization. There’s a lot of founders, a lot of startups, a lot of people trying to grow their company. And of course, there’s going to be some people, some, some, some bigger organizations, they probably work for a company that because of their size doesn’t have an organizational development department or training department. So we try to sort of provide that to them. We have 900 businesses that are part of the Studer Community Institute that come for a number of educational topics and our big event every year as EntreCon, which is always, you know, a way for us to expose them to people that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to. Because these are people that can’t leave their company for two days, or go to a conference and so on like that. So we try to bring talent like you to them. And we’re just thrilled to have you on our docket for this year at Sarah, I can check something off my bucket list now. So tell us what you would like the people at EntreCon when you’re done to sort of walk away with if you could?

Dr. Bob Nelson  16:25
Sure. Well, you know, for any small business, right after cashflow, the most important thing is motivation of people. If you don’t have people that are motivated, that’s the infill the mission. That are they’re acting as though it’s their company, they’re giving their best. It’s not coming as it could go anywhere. So you’ve got to have highly committed people. And so I want to give, I want to be able to help, my hope is that everyone leaves with some specific real life techniques and hands and help to help tap into that, what their people have to offer and how to get the maximum from them. While they’re with you. If you do that, right, people will stay longer. And you’ll get a reputation for being an employer of choice with people, you’re better able to attract the talent you need. And that’s my hope is,

Quint Studer  17:26
I think that’d be wonderful, because I try to also say if you’re a small company, you really can’t afford to have somebody that’s not engaged, because it actually can make or break a company. So the fact that you’re going to bring people not only reward recognition, but you know, way to connect to your employees way to keep them loyal. So they don’t want to leave. In fact, they want to tell other people how fortunate they are to work for your small business. So Dr. Bob, we’re thrilled.

Unknown Speaker  17:53
Okay, add on just one second. Because in my experience, I’ve worked with all types of companies over the years that everyone, no matter who they are, no matter, everyone, the tendency people have is to focus on what they can’t do. So if it’s no government, we can’t do this. The big companies can do this. For small companies, they’re the best at doing this to say, well, well, we can’t do that we don’t have budget for this or that. And I my message to small businesses that look around you, you have more at your fingertips than you’re giving yourself credit for. You have daily access to your employees, Watson can can see the owners on a daily basis, you have infinite flexibility. There’s so many corporations have a 300 page policy man, you can’t do anything without three approvals, you’re not confined, confined by that. You got a my hope is to open their eyes and see the possibilities that are in play. And not to say, well, we, you know, we don’t we don’t have money to spend. So this is not a money thing. The best recognition doesn’t cost you a dime. And so now if you have some money to spend, you can add on to it. But But please don’t feel it starts with the budget. If we only pay people a little bit further than more than that they’d be happy. That’s not what it’s about. If we can treat people better. Given the behavior that makes them feel engaged and value, then they’ll be the happiest and they’ll be the most productive as well.

Quint Studer  19:25
That’s a great way to close. So we’re looking forward to having you at EntreCon and thank you for the great impact you’ve made over the years and made hundreds of thousands employees lives better. So thank you very much,

Dr. Bob Nelson  19:35
Quint. It’s an honor to speak with you and to be a part of your conference. Thank you so much for having me.