Looking great

LinkedIn. We all use it. It’s American. 316 profile views. In what time-frame? Is that great? Based on what? Compared to whom? Who is doing the viewing?

And your “accomplishments are being recognized.” The word accomplishment is a big one. MerriamWebser defines it like this:

“The act or fact of accomplishing something; completion – accomplishment of a goal; a feeling of accomplishment; something that has been accomplished; achievement; her family is proud of her academic accomplishments; an impressive accomplishment.

316. Great !

Awards

Award: To give or order the giving of something as an official payment, compensation, or prize to someone; a prize or other mark of recognition given in honor of an achievement. From Anglo-Norman French awarder, variant of Old French esguarder “consider, ordain.”

Americans believe strongly that awards motivate people to perform. The College Football All-America Team is an honor given every year to the best college football players at their respective positions. The Heisman Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the outstanding player. The Lombardi award is awarded annually to the best college football lineman or linebacker.

The College Basketball All-America team is made up of those players voted the best in the country by the sports press. The Naismith Award is given to the country‘s most outstanding college player.

The Cy Young Award is given to the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, one each for the American and National League. The Most Valuable Player Award, commonly known as the MVP, is the oldest individual award.

The Academy Awards, known as the Oscars, are given annually for excellence of cinematic achievements, in more than a dozen categories. The ceremony is televised live in over 100 countries. The Grammy Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists.

Valedictorian is an academic title given to the student delivering the closing statement at a graduation ceremony. Valedictorians are typically the student with the highest academic ranking in their graduating class.

The National Honor Society recognizes high school students demonstrating excellence in the areas of scholarships, leadership, service, and character. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, an academic honor society with 280 chapters, promotes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences at the university level.

American children receive trophies for placing first, second and third in sports competition. In recent years it has become common for all participants to receive some kind recognition for participation alone, including even trophies.

Elementary school students continue to receive stickers or stars on their homework assignments – shiny, glow in the dark, big in size – in order to acknowledge good work.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor in the U.S., awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President in the name of U.S. Congress.

October 2012. Apple CEO Tim Cook: “Apple is having another incredibly successful year, thanks to all of the hard work by you and your teams. Your focus and dedication to making the best products on earth is what makes Apple such an incredible place. To recognize the efforts that made this amazing year possible, I’m happy to announce that we’re extending the Thanksgiving holiday once again this year. We will shut down with pay on November 19, 20 and 21 so our teams can spend the whole week with their loved ones.”

Common and Unoriginal

According to Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, authors of the book Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage, American culture is solidarity-based – which means that it is based on creating a sense of equality and belonging. It is because of this that Americans seek to find a way to compliment each other for very basic things – to form bonds and a sense of belonging.

Additionally, in 1981, Nessa Wolfson published a study on the use of compliments in various cultures, and her assessment of American complimenting culture, where compliments are “as cheap as chips,” was that “the most striking feature of compliments in American English is their total lack of originality.” 

Wolfson wrote that 23% of American compliments include the word “nice,” 20% include “good,” and 54% follow the pattern: “noun/phrase is/looks (really) adjective.”

Praise Inflation

Awards in the American culture are omnipresent, ubiquitous – everywhere. A critical, and self-critical, discussion has begun. It is small, but growing. Many in the U.S. believe that there is too much praised given, often when not earned, often inflated.

The fear is that generations of Americans are being raised with unrealistic expectations, with an inaccurate estimation of themselves, of their abilities. The danger is that these generations will become frustrated, angry, or even worse, not willing to work as hard as is needed in order to succeed.

A growing number of Americans are no longer willing to call things great, super, fantastic, awesome, or amazing. They do not believe that schools systems should give grades higher than what is statistically possible, such as higher than a 4.0, which is equivalent to an A or a 1.0.

Encouragement

Encouragement: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something; the expression of respect and gratitude. From Old French preisier ‘to prize, praise,” from Latin pretium ‘price.’

Positive thinking: The act of thinking good or affirmative thoughts. Many people engage in structured positive thinking to rid themselves of depressing, unhealthy, negative thoughts. It’s based on the idea that the mind can affect the body. It is a way of enhancing health without the use of drugs.

There are 27,978 book search results under the search term “positive thinking” on Amazon.com, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, and “The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles” by Bruce H. Lipton.

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) – one of the first writers of personal success literature, the author of “Think and Grow Rich” (1937, 20 million copies sold), and an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt – once said:

“Your mind has a secret invisible talisman. On one side is emblazoned the letters PMA – positive mental attitude and on the other the letters NMA – negative mental attitude. A positive attitude will naturally attract the good and the beautiful. The negative attitude will rob you of all that makes life worth living. Your success, health, happiness, and wealth depend on how you make up your mind.”

Motivation: The reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

There are 32,346 book results under “motivation” on Amazon.com. Popular titles include “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink, “100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, Change Your Life Forever” by Steve Chandler and “Creating the Perfect Lifestyle – Success, Achievement, Motivation, Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins” by Oli Hille.

… of the Month

Americans value public recognition. To be recognized in the presence of peers, customers, friends, family brings real satisfaction. And it takes place on a daily basis in the U.S.

In schools, at the worksplace, in sports, politics and business. Americans track the ups, the downs, who’s winning, who’s losing. The more quantifiable, the better. Statistics. Rankings. Percentages.

It can be comical. It can be inflationary. In some cases, it has become a bit absurd. But it speaks to both the importance and the form of feedback in American society. Americans are motivated by recognition, given in public.

Acknowledgement: recognition or favorable notice of an act or achievement.

“… say that we’re good.”

In February 2015 Reimund Neugebauer was interviewed. He is the Head of the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany: 66 research locations, 24,000 employees and an annual budget of 2 billion Euros.

Neugebauer was asked whether German technical and industrial innovation was weakening. His response: Not at all. Germany’s innovativeness secures the country’s prosperity. Fifty percent of all so-called hidden champions (little-known global market leaders in their fields) are located in Germany. Mittelstand companies, said Neugebauer, are simply very modest.

Neugebauer recalled giving a speech at a company anniversary and deservedly praised the firm. “After me, the owner took the stage and said he felt like clarifying something, saying that the company was just one of many and that everyone in the room was good at what they did. 

He was worried that the praise would not be well received. That’s so typical! In a way, I like this modesty, too. But we also have to be able to say that we’re good. Germany wouldn’t be the world’s No. 1 exporter of research-intensive goods if we had constantly missed the boat on innovations.”

Praise properly

The February 2015 edition of the magazine Deutsch Perfekt, published by Spotlight, whose target audience consists of people interested in learning German, contained an article dedicated to the topic of praise in the workplace:

“Praising appropriately: It is clear that praise is an important aspect of a team which works together well. So how can one give more praise in the German everyday workplace, and still be taken seriously?

In Germany, praise is something special. Great praise is not given for small deeds. Positive feedback is only given when something was truly good – differently from many other cultures.

Many foreign co-workers quickly become aware of how little praise is given during everyday life in Germany. What is interesting, however, is that the majority of Germans who were surveyed also stated that they received too little praise at their place of work.

However, if too much praise is given, the one being praised can quickly becomes distrustful of the statements. If Germans are not themselves convinced that they have done something special, but still receive praise, it is not credible to them. In such cases, Germans will simply not take the praise seriously.

For this reason you should formulate your praise precisely: What was good? Why did you like it? Praise (like criticism) should always be concrete and specific. In this way, it becomes more understandable to the recipient.”

More praise, please!

An international employee survey by the Geva-Institute of Munich from 2009 demonstrated the differences by country in the expectations of employees from their supervisors.

80% of German employees expected their boss to be good at making decisions and able to execute their plans.

Besides this, German employees prefer to take responsibility for their own work. Accordingly, three out of four people who were surveyed stated that a supervisor should provide enough freedom to their employees with regard to making their own decisions and taking action.

Nevertheless, the typical German office could use some more dolling out of praise: only half of German employees felt that their work is sufficiently appreciated.

Be wary. Be happy.

Germans strive to remain clear-headed, to avoid incrementally inflated euphoria, to avoid a step-by-step distancing from a sober assessment of reality. For Germans it’s not “Don’t worry. Be Happy.” But instead “Be wary. Be happy.”

Wary: marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness, especially in detecting and escaping danger.

“Escaping danger.” Dangerous can be thinking too highly of oneself. Dangerous can be misreading a situation. Dangerous is unjustified happy, euphoric.

But, there is another reason to “be wary.” Neid, envy. The Germans themselves speak of their Neidgesellschaft, “society of envy”, of their Neider, the envious. 

Public recognition can lead to envy within the team. Envy threatens cohesion. Germans are not comfortable with “stars” or “rainmakers” in their organizations. Neid is one reason. The other is purely rational.

In complex organizations, especially those which are highly matrixed, how can individuals or individual teams be cited as especially successful? As clearly better than others? How can that be measured?