Your leaders carry your organization. They motivate and direct others and set a good example for other team members. Similarly, it pays long-term benefits to reward and reinforce the outstanding leadership performance of your best team members. When you do, your top performers will be more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. As an added bonus, you’ll inspire other people within your company to do the same.
Rewarding effective leadership sends a strong, unmistakable message to everyone in your company. But what are some of the best ways to reward and reinforce strong leadership performance?
Start by Recognizing That Every Leader Is Different
First, you should know that every leader — and every employee in your organization, for that matter — operates differently. What works as a strong motivator to reward one employee for strong leadership performance may not necessarily work for another.
The obvious outworking of this fact is that to properly reward a great track record, you will need to do some research to find out what makes that strong performer tick. Plan to spend some time getting to know that employee personally.
Develop and Distribute Leadership Performance Awards
One of the best ways to reward leaders is with specific leadership awards like plaques, trophies, and other gifts. Personalize these totems of success. Display the recipient’s name and a brief description of their achievement. Your company may even consider developing a public-facing “trophy case” or other display that honors past winners.
The distribution of awards has several advantages. For starters, awards can be relatively inexpensive, making them budget-friendly. They typically make a big impact on the person receiving them, instilling a sense of pride for their accomplishments along with a desire to keep going. Awards have a permanence to them beyond spoken words of praise and serve as a physical reminder to others of company values. Trophies and plaques are most effective when coupled with something tangible such as a cash bonus, office creature comfort, or gift certificate to a popular, high-end restaurant.
Break Out the Bonuses and Pay Raises
Recognizing strong leadership performance is definitely not the time to get tight with the purse strings. Better to do nothing than skimp in this category. The most direct way to reward your top performers is to make provision for the awarding of bonuses and/or pay raises.
Research varies on whether money is a top motivator for employees; some studies suggest that employees are always happy and more strongly motivated when receiving higher pay. Others suggest that pay only has a minimal impact on employee satisfaction and happiness. Many employees are more likely to be motivated by factors more closely related to things such as company culture and camaraderie with other team members.
In any case, even a modest pay increase or the occasional one-off bonus check could be exactly the motivation your top leaders need to keep succeeding.
Grant Special Privileges for Strong Leadership Performance
You might want to reward your top leaders in some concrete fashion but don’t have the budget or the authority to distribute bonuses or pay raises. In that case, consider giving your best leaders some special privileges. Depending on your company and the nature of the exceptional performance, look for inexpensive ways to recognize others. Grant employees an exclusive, designated parking space, an extra day off with pay, or the flexibility to leave early on Fridays when all their responsibilities are finished.
Host Special Events and Activities
If the employee’s achievement is significant enough, you might consider hosting a party for the entire office in honor of the outstanding employee. It can be as simple and inexpensive as knocking off work a bit early on a Friday and ordering pizza for the entire team. Maybe you head out for some bowling, an escape room, or some other offsite team-building activity. If you need to do something simpler, just take that employee out for a special lunch and express your thanks.
Offer Praise in a Public Setting
Rewards don’t always have to be extravagant or even tangible. Sometimes, even the simplest gestures can reinforce strong leadership performance and make your top performers feel rewarded.
For example, you can (and should) go out of your way to publicly praise the person responsible for the achievement. Call a brief meeting, focus exclusively on the exceptional performance, and ask for a round of applause. Something this basic helps the leader feel duly recognized and good about themselves. Showcase to everyone else that strong performances are always valued at your company.
Ask the Recipient for Ideas
Perhaps you’re not sure how to reward leadership performance or you’re working with a personality type that’s hard to parse. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your employee how they’d like to be rewarded.
More often than not, you’ll get to learn how this person operates, what their values are, and what they find motivating. Once you obtain this information — and record it in a private “Awards” spreadsheet — you’ll be better able to reward your achievers. You might even find it easier to work more efficiently with that person in the future.
Treat Everyone Like a Leader
There’s a good case to be made that you should treat everyone in your organization as a leader. Empowering your employees with autonomy and authority over their own duties can make them feel more connected to your company. It also affords them an opportunity to make better decisions on behalf of the business.
You should already have a reward program in place for employees who demonstrate effective leadership performance. If not, don’t hesitate to try one or more of the above strategies to recognize those in your organization who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Once a formal reward structure is in place, you’ll see a gradual shift in the behavior of your top leaders. Over time, you’ll establish and continuously reinforce effective practices. With strong leaders setting the tone, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the organization follows suit.