Discover more from Admired Leadership Field Notes
Recognize the Team or the Individual Contributors?
When teams perform above and beyond expectations, good leaders make a big deal of it. Recognizing excellence publicly is both highly rewarding and encourages team members to replicate their success in the future.
At the same time, highlighting the great work of key team members with public praise can also be uplifting. Singling out important contributors and holding them up for group recognition can prove to be a tremendous motivator.
So good leaders naturally do both, right?
In group settings, leaders walk a tightrope whenever they elevate individual performance over the team’s collective accomplishment. Attributing team success publicly to any one team member has the potential to create jealousy and ill will within the team. Those who have worked selflessly to support the team take it as a huge insult when leaders single out a particular team member for what they see as a team effort.
Leaders who step unintentionally into this quagmire often learn later that the team is upset and no longer working as collaboratively as they had been prior to this public recognition. Despite the good intentions of leaders to make individuals feel great about their work, in public settings, the team always comes first.
Recognizing team members for their individual contribution, even when it is sizeable, is best left to private settings. The best leaders learn that in a highly collaborative and team-oriented enterprise, just about everything about great performance is attributable to the team, not to individual players.
When one team member has had an oversized impact on the outcome and must be singled out, savvy leaders remember to highlight the team first and the contributor second. On the face of it, this seems like a small and innocuous choice, but it is hugely symbolic.
Leaders who want great teams always recognize the team first and make every attribution of success to the collective. Doing so benefits the spirit and comradery necessary for teams to rally the best effort from everyone.
Leaders help by keeping the pecking order in mind. Turning to individuals after the team has been exalted makes everyone feel good. Even the top performers know that great achievements are never done by one person. Like the best leaders, they know the team always reigns supreme.