No. 1299



One time, several years ago now, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Awards Banquet of the Arkansas Press Association. One of those honored as “Headliner of the Year” was Joe Ford, Chairman and CEO of the Alltel Corporation.
I can remember back in the days when this company was known as Allied Telephone Company with a few hundred employees. It grew to more than 26,000 employees and did business in more than 20 states before selling to Verizon Wireless in 2009. Mr. Ford was a big part of this company’s success and is well deserving of this top honor.
When he came forward to accept a plaque and make a few remarks, he began by saying, “For me, this honor is like seeing a turtle sitting on a fence post -- you know it didn’t get there by itself.” He went on to thank the people of his company, both in general and especially those who were in attendance. The reason I decided to share this with you is because I could not get the mental picture of a “turtle on a fence post” out of my mind. There is a principle here that I wish everyone knew and understood.
The principle is simply this -- every person who achieves any measure of success did not get there purely on his or her own. He or she has had many people along the way who have helped them. We hear a lot these days about a self-made man or woman, but don’t you believe it. This person may have come from further back and had less to start with than most, but he or she also had a lot of other people help them along the way.
When any of us work hard and succeed, I’m here to tell you that we need more than a paycheck. We also need personal recognition which may come in the form of a pat on the back, a thank you note, a word of congratulations, and a news story or, in the case of Joe Ford, a plaque that says to all, “Congratulations and Well Done.” I can say truthfully that while I have not set the world on fire, I really treasure the plaques and other mementos that hang on the wall in my office. Each time I see them they remind me of the good people that I have been privileged to serve and to work with.
If you are in a top management position with any company, school or any other organization, how long has it been since you took the time to say “Thank You” and to honor someone who has helped you or your organization achieve success? The small cost of a plaque or certificate can mean a lot to the one who receives it.
Now, a trophy or other award for an individual or a team’s success is something they earned in competition, and while still very important it is a little bit different than what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is just simple appreciation for a job well done. A few dollars invested in a plaque or other form of recognition could be worth thousands of dollars in extra production, loyalty and a real sense of family and belonging.
To be appreciated is very important because, like I said, we all need more than a paycheck. After self-preservation, which is the first law of nature, the three things that every human being desires are recognition, change, and security. When we take the time to meet these other needs of those in our charge, we have tapped into a potential that many others miss. It may make the difference between success and failure.
If you are an owner, manager or someone in a leadership position, here are a few guidelines. First, do not over-do it. When done too often, the sentiment loses its meaning. Next, don’t do it to make you look good. Anyone can see through that and the gesture will diminish you in their eyes. Misplaced value is seldom rewarded. And lastly, make sure the recognition is deserved. If you give a plaque or honor someone who is just going through the motions it may motivate them, but again it may not.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)