What The Golden Globes Teaches Us About Employee Recognition

Golden Globe Awards LogAfter watching the Golden Globes on TV last Sunday, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it.  Apparently, my subconscious believed the show should be the subject of a blog post and found a way of jostling me into alertness.

Always one to listen to my inner voice, I came to realize in the daylight that the Hollywood Foreign Press did some brilliant things to ensure the full power of its recognition was bestowed upon its awardees.  But they also did some things that unnecessarily undermined their effectiveness.

I want to make brief note of both.

Once a year, the Golden Globes are presented to television and film’s best writers, directors, actors and actresses, and the winners almost always have done truly exceptional work to earn the award.  It’s clear in the faces of these people that this recognition is extremely meaningful and that virtually all of them aspire to earn a Golden Globe though their work.

(Before you proceed, please begin thinking about your employees and how hard they work in order to earn your praise and approval.  There’s a parallel here).

This year’s host, comedian, Ricky Gervais, opened the ceremony with these words:

“Tonight you get Britain’s biggest comedian, hosting the world’s second biggest awards show, on America’s third biggest network… Sorry, fourth.”

As he said these things, we could see the audience wince.  Why?  Let’s dissect what he said.

In expressing “Tonight you get Britain’s biggest comedian,” Gervais effectively made the show about him – and not at all the people who were to be recognized – either by winning or by being nominated.

In saying, “Hosting the world’s second biggest awards show,” he inferred that the award wasn’t all that prestigious – inherently demeaning the experience and the prize.

And with his last phrase “on America’s third biggest network… sorry, fourth,” he was suggesting that better networks – and their audiences – weren’t interested in the show.

Whether or not we think Gervais is funny, it was clear to me that these short introductory sentences had real effect.  They were deflating and disheartening right at a time when his words should have conveyed admiration, gratitude and praise.

Now we can argue that celebrities all can take some poking and to maintain our sense humor here.  But in business, humor used in this way is destructive to people in the moment – and to their engagement long term.  Better to tell your high performing employees right at the get go how extremely grateful you are and take things from there.

This aside, there were three things done at the Golden Globes that I really loved and encourage you to make use of in your own recognition events:

Awardees Got To Speak:  At the Globes, it’s an acceptance speech that some times goes on too long.  But allowing award recipients their moment in the spotlight is clearly the best part of the recognition.  In business, especially for great accomplishments, ask your employees to briefly describe how they made their achievement.  It not only will be incredibly inspiring, it will teach everyone else on the team how to win like that.

Peers Present Awards:  Many different celebrities come on stage and announce the Globe winners.  While organization leaders may prefer to be more efficient and call out the awardees themselves, you might consider having a team-nominated award and invite one or even several employees to announce the recipient at your meeting.  Powerful.

An Esteemed Veteran Presents Truly Special Award: Legendary veteran actor, Sydney Poitier, presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Morgan Freeman.  Poitier, regarded as one of the best ever in Hollywood, was symbolically perfect as the person to honor Freeman’s work.  How wonderful of an experience to be acknowledged and venerated by one of the greats!   If you have some esteemed long-term employee whose work is highly regarded by the team, ask them to strengthen the effect of some truly special recognition by making the presentation themselves.

In conclusion, I believe recognition is one of the most powerful motivators of human performance – and its effectiveness is greatly enhanced when the leader’s appreciation is authentic and people can feel it.

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By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.