Recognition: Signs of Achievement

Recognition; the word is fairly innocuous looking, not one that grabs at peoples’ emotions or tugs at their heartstrings; yet it is the one thing that a vast majority of people seek, whether they know it or admit it.

Recognition is the acknowledgment of achievement, service or merit. It can come in many forms--verbal, visual, tangible, material, financial … probably others as well. It can be as simple as a sincere “thank you” and eye contact when you open a door for someone, or as involved as recognizing someone at an annual company shareholder meeting and awarding them with a cash bonus.

I think that most people like to be recognized for things they do, whether that is cleaning up their desk, going the extra mile getting the tournament field ready for the big game, developing a plan for the big city celebration or leading a team to victory. 

Oh, there are those who, at least outwardly, shun recognition. They say they don’t do things for recognition, they do it because it’s their job, or it had to be done, or it’s what anybody would do; they avoid compliments, brushing them off or changing the subject or walking away.

But deep down, if they were being honest with themselves, I think even the stalwart Spartan-types glow internally when someone recognizes what they do. It is human nature to enjoy it when others recognize them as special.

I must admit I used to fall into that category. I did what I did because it’s what I do, not so that somebody recognized me for it. In reality, I’m still that way. But somewhere along the way, I changed my perspective somewhat. I realized that I do appreciate it, and it makes me feel good about myself, when someone recognizes me for something I’ve done.

I think I really started to realize this a few years ago when I would do a monthly briefing of young enlisted Marines who were preparing to finish a professional leadership course. I was representing an association that had as one of its primary missions to provide tangible signs of recognition--from certificates to plaques and heirloom-quality statuettes to a wide range of other similar things.

I would try to emphasize to the young men and women that these things may not mean a lot to them when they first get them. Like I had done before them, I would put them away in a box and go on with “what I do.” But years later, it would mean something to them, or their family.

As an example I told them about a small plaque I had received years before from the very association I now represented. As the honor man in my platoon at Marine Corps recruit training, I received a small 9 x 7-inch plaque from the association. It had my name, new rank a statement in recognition of “outstanding achievement in boot camp; a high honor for a farm boy such as I.

It was (is) a tiny thing, easily lost in the world, but I was proud of my achievement and of that small plaque that represented the achievement. I packed the plaque away because I had places to go and things to do, but I always kept track of it. From move to move, it always found its way to a safe place.

Then, years later, when my life had settled down in one place for a while, I dug it out, put it on my “I Love Me” wall, and found that the pride in that achievement was still as strong as when I had earned it.

Somewhere along the way, I learned about the concept of “catching people in the act of doing good work,” and employed it every chance I got. It fit nicely with the “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around) concept I borrowed from a fellow Marine (and namesake for the column of the same name I do for PRB). 

LBWA means getting out from behind the desk, out of the office and going to where things are happening, services are being provided and events are taking place. This is where a leader sees what is actually happening as opposed to what gets filtered through sub-layers of an organization. 

In the process, it is easy to catch people in the act of doing good work. I would always try to expect the best out of people, anticipate them doing a good job and let them know so; occasionally, of course, I’d also discover the opposite. But for the most part, it was a positive experience.

Of course, knowing the boss can wander by unexpectedly does instill a certain sense of anticipation in employees; that’s not a bad thing, especially if the boss takes the time to see what’s going on, to ask questions about the work and pay tribute to a job well done.

This recognition of people doing a great job at their jobs is really central to the theme of the Keynote Address I’ll be giving at the 2nd Annual Fall Festival conference and exhibition on September 29.  That’s why I am asking leaders who are Weekender Readers to go to the PRB website (, click the Fall Festival drop down box, fill out the simple form and nominate one person or a team on staff who has done an outstanding job, day to day, getting the job done.

I will select from the nominations at least one example each from parks and rec, camps, landscaping and vendors, to mention during the keynote. All nominations accepted by the PRB staff and I will be recognized in several forums.

Why? Because ultimately it’s all about YOU. Each of us is important to the people we live with, work with and serve. It’s time YOU, or a YOU in your working life, gets the recognition they deserve.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Bay Minette, AL; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email