Each Sunday my family and I go to church. During a portion of the meetings, my wife and I go to a class just for adults, and my kids go to another where they play games and do arts and crafts.
After church, I retrieve my kids from their classes and often they’ll come running up to me showing me what they’ve just created.
Sometimes it’s a popsicle puppet, sometimes it’s a picture they’ve colored, and sometimes I have NO IDEA what it is.
What they made is irrelevant. What they really want is to be recognized for their accomplishment.
As a parent, I’ve come to understand on a much deeper level just how badly humans want to be recognized. It’s a deep emotion embedded within each human being, and kids aren’t the only ones who long for it.
If you study the world’s history, especially the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages, you’ll see the countless lives that were lost in battle, all in the name of “expanding an empire” in the form of a crusade.
These crusades would take men away from their families and away from their villages, and would sometimes span several years. They were also expensive, and were typically funded by taxing the people.
So what were the motives? Why embark on such large-scale expeditions sapping precious resources and ending countless human lives?
The marching orders came from a king or ruler and the motives were often rooted in this: vying for personal fame, wealth, and glory.
What a shame…
Luckily we’ve moved out of the Dark Ages, but the pursuit of recognition is still live and well and I truly believe that if we want to become effective leaders in our homes, our work, and our communities, we need to learn to how to deal with this insatiable desire for recognition.
Here are a few ideas to get us started:
Look in the Mirror
Years ago, I came across a quote that forever changed the way I look at leadership:
Leaders take more than their share of the blame and a little less of their share of the credit. – Arnold Glasow
Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t describes this as the mirror concept. Great leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.
If you’re constantly looking to give the credit to those around you, you are on track to what Jim Collins calls “Level 5 Leadership”, a defining characteristic of some of the most respected leaders of our time.
Catch Them Doing Something Right
How often do we wait until our co-worker or spouse or child is doing something “wrong” before saying something? That’s no way to operate and certainly won’t make the other person feel respected or important.
Instead, try to catch people doing something “right”. It often times gets you the same results, but instead of leaving the person dejected, you lift them to new heights and motivate them to carry on and continue doing great work.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a complement? It feels nice, doesn’t it?
In our household, we each chip in with all chores but I typically oversee the yard work and my wife oversees the inside work. My wife is always great about complementing me when the lawn is mowed or the garage is neat and organized (real special I know).
I try to do the same with her. When I notice that she’s vacuumed the whole house or cleaned the bathrooms, I try to recognize her efforts and say thank you. It’s a small gesture, but it helps each of us know that our efforts don’t go unnoticed.
(I know, I know. There’s no better way to say thank you than to do the chores myself! Don’t worry, I put the dish washing gloves on every now and then to stay grounded.)
Each day I spend time on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter (mostly for work) and I often come across a post like this: “I have the best wife in the world. So happy to be married to this woman.”
If you want to tell the world you love being married to your wife, that’s fine and dandy. But it better not be the only time or place you vocalize it.
As a society, we are going digital in every aspect of life. But this can often rob us of the rich human experience that can only be felt in person, as real human beings, when true recognition and appreciation can be given.
Don’t use social media to replace your social interactions. Use it as a tool that complements them.
Hopefully this post has caused you to think about recognition differently. Babies cry for it and grown men have died for it.
Which approach are you going to take?