This picture takes me instantly back to my kidhood. The homework or test is handed back to me from the teacher with a grade, and if you did well and got really lucky, it might have one of these stars on it.
The star – whether blue, green or gold, made my day. It told me that I had done a good job. And even if the grade was a good one, it wasn’t as sweet as when you got a star too.
Maybe you didn’t get stars like these, but I’ll bet you got something like them – and I’m betting part of you is smiling as you think of your version of the story I just told.
The gold star was a symbol, a reminder, and recognition of a job well done, of effort that made a difference. And while as an adult you might be thinking you don’t need gold stars because you know how you did, and you know how hard you worked . . . think again.
As adults we are all just kids in bigger bodies.
Recognition changes our attitude, intensifies our desire, and builds trust with the person giving us the recognition – regardless of our age. (Tweet that.)
Am I suggesting you go out and buy a box of these stars or their modern day equivalent? Not necessarily, but there are simple yet powerful ways to use the lesson of the gold star as a leader of adults today.
Before you stop reading thinking this is an article about “giving everyone a trophy”, let me be clear. Your teacher didn’t give everyone a gold star every day, and even if you were a great student, you didn’t get them all the time. Because your teacher was wise and knew that the star, in order to be properly understood and valued, needed to be reserved for the certain situations when your effort or results truly warranted it.
So with that concern out of the way, how can you be a gold star leader starting today?
Find your version of a star. If you think about it, you will see adult versions of this principle everywhere. Restaurant servers wearing stickers of recognition on their name tags, factory workers with things affixed to their hard hats, and conference attendees with various types of “swag” proudly adorning their badge – all of these are examples of the gold star principle and a clear reminder that we never outgrow the value we attach to these recognitions. These of course are simple, but company shirts, rewards and non-monetary rewards of all sorts when done well are just elaborate examples of the gold star.
Do you have a version of a star in your organization or at your disposal already? If so, are you using it to greatest value? If not, what could you use?
Write a note. I have a folder in my file drawer filled with notes of recognition and appreciation I’ve received over the last 30 years. Most times when I ask groups if they do, most people nod their heads. Even if you don’t have such a file, you likely have clear and distinct memories of receiving a note of thanks, recognition or praise from someone – perhaps from long ago. Written praise that is specific and genuine is extremely powerful – especially when coming from a boss or someone else we value.
When was the last time you wrote someone a note of thanks, congratulations or praise? If you can’t remember, it has been too long. These don’t have to be long, just genuine. (If you want a standard way to do it, you could consider our Remarkable Reminder pads.)
Make a comment. No money required here at all. Tell someone you appreciate what they did. Make it specific and heartfelt. Perhaps in front of others, but perhaps just pulling the person aside and telling them that you noticed.
You can find something today that warrants a comment of praise or recognition. Make it your goal to notice it and make the comment before you leave work today.
None of this is hard, and none of this is new to you. The question isn’t if you know it, the question is, are you doing it? If you aren’t, perhaps this is a reminder. If you don’t because you think it is childish, think again. Effort and results will most predictably be repeated when people know that effort has been noticed, recognized and appreciated.