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December is a time when many organizations tend to slide into neutral. With not much left to do to change results for the year and having to wait to jumpstart the coming year, people often check out early.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what many of your employees are doing right now. It has been a long and challenging year, and the idea of 2015’s challenges may be too daunting for them to even think about.

This is exactly the time to consider a new approach to motivating your team. Too often recognition is tied to bonuses or pay increases or celebration parties. While very important, it just isn’t enough in today’s world.   What people really crave is recognition. I am not talking about walking around like a robot, giving pats on the back for achievement of certain tasks or reaching a specific goal. I would call that constructive feedback and affirmation; something people also need.

Just a few of our Super Stars!

Super Stars

Instead, start by using an event in December to recognize a few team members who have gone above and beyond in terms of their efforts. That accountant who burned the midnight oil to get needed quarter-end regulatory filing out in a timely manner while key people on her team were away on medical leave. Make sure she feels the deep appreciation you have for the time she sacrificed being away from family or missing out on other activities. People need to know their commitment, efforts, and personal sacrifices are recognized and appreciated.

Consider others who have gone above and beyond. One that without their extra effort and sacrifice, your 2014 could have turned out much differently. Often times these are not your typical lime-light individuals. But consider what recognizing their efforts in front of their peers could do to reaffirm their personal commitment to the organization as well as motivate others. We all have a deep need to be acknowledged. Make sure you close out this year by appreciating those who deserve it. Then commit to making this a regular habit. Being grateful and showing appreciation for others contributions is a wonderful character trait of a respected leader.

Here are some key points to ensure that your recognition is effective:

  1. Timely – Be as timely as possible with feedback. The closer to the event the better. Catch people doing exemplary work and acknowledge their efforts.  Again, you are recognizing their efforts. Don’t feel you have to recognize everyone or you will just water down the value. Showing up for work on time does not count–it’s a function of keeping your job and doing what you are paid for.
  2. Authentic – You have to mean it when you give employees recognition. So often we feel the need to recognize everyone equally when the effort contributed is not equal. Two people may have achieved the same goal, and for one it was a breeze, while the other had to overcome adversity. Maybe a death in the family or aging parents requiring extra attention. Recognizing that their results matter and that you understand the extra effort required of them will show they matter more to you than just as a warm body in a seat. Equal recognition in this case will water down the value of your appreciation.
  3. Specific – Recognition is most effective when it is tied to the greater goal or objective of the organization. Recognizing the employee who went above and beyond to land that business deal matters. The importance is that you acknowledge the effort the employee put forth to ensure the success of the business unit.
  4. Motivational – Money is appropriate much of the time, but it’s not the only – or even the most effective – motivator. Treat employees as valued team members. Most of the time you will get more mileage from the recognition than the money.


Be the kind of leader others want to follow. Genuine appreciation and recognition in December will go a long way in getting your 2015 off to a great start. Then figure out how to make this a regular part of your week and month.

If you need help getting started, give me a call. I would love to help YOU make 2015 even better than this year.