Recognition is top of mind and eye level @Delta


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I was heading to Los Angeles this week for a speaking engagement and meetings. Upon boarding my flight with Delta I noticed something. Right in the galley upon entering the plane was this sign.

The plaque called out Jim Stefl as a 2013 honoree of the Delta Chairman’s Club. The club recognizes employees for above and beyond performance. One the crew members noticed me taking the photo. They told me a bit about the program. Roughly 100 employees get recognized each year and that many more get nominated for the program. According to press release by Delta, about 10,000 were nominated last year.

In the words of CEO Richard Anderson,

 “We say it all the time here – Delta people cannot be replicated, and our Chairman’s Club honorees represent the best of what Delta has to offer.”

It looks like Delta celebrates the honorees in style. They walk the red carpet across Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta to the cheers of their colleagues before the ceremony begins. [Here’s a touching video about the program and its ‘star’ honorees]

Caring Front and Center

I love how Delta how celebrates the winners. It reminded me of a neat program by the South African insurance company Etana and their program REDwards. The awards honor the efforts of employees who have gone above and beyond in living the Etana values. The actual awards are made by local artists and are given out to reinforce the core values at the company: Be Open, Know, Grow, Give and Make it Happen.

Similar to Delta, here was the added touch t really drove home the recognition. To coincide with the event, Etana bought billboards near the home office. The billboards highlighted the different winners from the REDwards. A total surprise and delight for employees when they returned to work the following day. Here is Kurt Solomon with his billboard:


Recognition is Key

Here’s an excerpt from my latest book, What’s Your Green Goldfish on recognition:

Recognition fuels a sense of worth and belonging in individuals. No rocket science here. As humans we crave acceptance. Yet, the majority of companies see recognition as an afterthought. Most are putting the cart before the horse. Recognition can impact satisfaction and more importantly performance.

Here are five Green Goldfish from the book highlighting Recognition

green goldfish decision lens action figures

1. Get Creative and Have Fun – Virginia based Decision Lens (Green Goldfish #712) awards top-performing salespeople with custom-made action figures designed to resemble the employee.  According to Co-Founder John Saaty,

“It’s a humorous way to acknowledge the great efforts of our sales team, and something that’s more memorable than the usual plaque or something like that.”  

2. Make it Visible – The Tabar (Green Goldfish #411) Thumbs Up Award is a roaming statue that sits on an employee’s desk when he or she goes over and above the call of job performance.

nerdery green goldfish

3. Do it often and consistently – Every week The Nerdery (Green Goldfish #305) agency compiles a video of shout-outs, with employees publicly praising their fellow nerds for going above and beyond. Five shout-out recipients are chosen for free lunches the following week. The weekly shout-out video is played for all at the Friday afternoon Bottlecap Talk, where the agency celebrates the successful launch of a recent project with a show-and-tell demo led by the rockstar developers who made it happen.


4. Take Note – it doesn’t have to cost anything. Former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company (Green Goldfish #21) Doug Conant is a big proponent of the power of handwritten notes. In Doug’s words,

“Look for opportunities to celebrate. My executive assistants and I would spend a good 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning my mail and our internal website looking for news of people who have made a difference at Campbell’s. Get out your pen. Believe it or not, I have sent roughly 30,000 handwritten notes to employees over the last decade, from maintenance people to senior executives. I let them know that I am personally paying attention and celebrating their accomplishments.(I send handwritten notes too because well over half of our associates don’t use a computer).”

I also jump on any opportunities to write to people who partner with our company any time I meet with them. It’s the least you can do for people who do things to help your company and industry. On the face of it, writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time. But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.”

5.  Don’t play politics – You need to recognize everyone on their merits. Long before he became CEO of iProspect (Green Goldfish #739), back as an analyst at Bain Capital and KPMG, Robert J. Murray had an idea on how you should run a services business.

“One thing that always surprised me in prior work experiences is when your assets walk out the door each day, why aren’t companies doing more to value the people doing the business?”

Mr. Murray thinks he’s found the answer to that, and quite a large number of his employees happen to agree. Mr. Murray’s formula: hire competitive people; promote early and often; give constant feedback, including iProps – notes of encouragement. “We are a meritocracy. When positions come open, we don’t care if you’ve been here six months or six years — we will promote the best person into that position,” he said.


Recognition is effective. Thirty-five percent of workers and 30% of chief financial officers cited frequent recognition of accomplishments as the most effective non monetary reward. Thanking people for their hard work and commitment is key to making them feel appreciated.

Remember, it’s not just an afterthought, it’s a driver of performance.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – When you publicly recognize your employees, you are also sending a message to your customers. That message is CARING. It’s a sign of warmth. In the words of Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske in The Human Brand, the brand is demonstrating the principle of worthy intentions. Recognition sends a message. Actions truly speak louder than words. Here is Chris sharing one of my favorite stories about Panera:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


  1. I agree recognition is very important for the self as well as for your business. It validates what you’re doing and that you are doing it well. It is a great confidence boost and motivates you to continue working hard.


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