Recognize Exceptional IT Performance

I think everyone has experienced this at least once. The manager who feels the need to take personal credit for everything good that happens on the team or in the department. If anyone notices something the team has worked on as a success, he or she wants to take credit for it. "Yeah, that was my idea."

On the other had, if something goes wrong, that same manager is the first to throw the team under the bus. I've even had skid marks on my back because my manager had slammed on the brakes and backed the bus up for another pass.

Hopefully it goes without saying that it isn't long before those managers expose themselves as they frauds they are. Ultimately the team doesn't like that kind of manager, they don't give him or her their best work, their boss doesn't respect them and they get sent packing.

Any kind of leader (particularly a project leader) needs to consider how they promote the good work of the team. I think it's important to appropriately recognize achievements. In an article titled How to Build Trust When Your Team Doesn't Know Each Other, Wayne Turmel suggests, "There are many ways to show off the competence of team members. When you have message boards and social network tools, there are opportunities to answer questions, refer other team members and generally offer individuals a chance to shine they might not otherwise get. As the manager, take the chance to commend workers in ways that let the entire team know who did such great work."

In many organizations, the only time a team member is acknowledged is when there's something wrong. I really like the idea of making it a point to look for ways to show off the competence of my team—to share their accomplishments with my superiors. It creates an atmosphere where people aren't afraid to speak with me and makes it a lot easier to have those sometimes difficult conversations when there are problems.

There's nothing wrong with finding ways to shine the light on exceptional effort or an exceptional member of the team. What's more, although money is a motivator for performance, it's not the only motivator. Most people leave their employment for reasons other than money. Maybe their commute was too long, maybe they didn't like the job—but it's more than likely they didn't feel their contribution was recognized or appreciated as something valuable; or they didn't like their boss.

Over the course of my career, I've noticed the times when I've been the most successful have been the times when I've been able to facilitate an atmosphere where individual members of the team could shine and be recognized for what they bring to the effort. When my need to shine is superseded by the ability of individuals on my team to shine, projects have been more successful, the team is happier, and as a result it reflects well on me.

As a side note, in most cases, praise for a job well done should be specific and public. Vague platitudes aren't worth the wasted words. "Jones, the extra work you did to get the Acme project in on time made the difference," is much more effective than, "Good job everyone."

Specific and public is how I try to address praise to members on my team as opposed to reprimand, which should be handled privately—unless you want to do irreparable damage to personal relationships (which are the foundation of project leadership in a world where most of the time everyone on the project team is usually a dotted line on the org chart).

What do you do to recognize exceptional work or exceptional team members?

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of CIOZone.com and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and About.com.

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