4.1.1. Celebrate

It's easy to believe that throwing money at our employee problems will solve them—as if higher salaries will enhance productivity or generate ideas or cultivate customer intimacy. While competitive salaries are important, going above market won't drive greater performance, even if we could afford it. In reality, real solutions are much less expensive: Each of your employees wants to be seen, to be validated, and recognized.

"Recognition is America's most underused[] motivational tool," says Richard Kovacevich, chairman of Wells Fargo. Kovacevich is one executive who has discovered that in a recognition culture, it's impossible for employees to be invisible for long. He knows that people want to be on a winning team, and one of the characteristics of winners is they celebrate.

In this section, we'll discuss the elements of effective praise and recognition: specific, sincere, public, appropriate—and frequent.

4.1.2. Be Specific

General praise has no impact.

Let us say that again: General praise has no impact on people.

If you've ever watched a great Little League coach in action, you may have wondered how he or she gets so much out of a team. What's the secret—other than the ability to be heard over a dozen high-pitched kids? The difference between great kids' coaches and lousy ones is not just their knowledge of game, but how they interact with their players.

You've probably seen the kind of coach who screams at everything—imagining he's Bill ...

Get The Invisible Employee: Using Carrots to See the Hidden Potential in Everyone, Second Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.