by Michelle Fortes

​For the month of August, we’re featuring your perspectives on Authenticity and Recognition! Click to Learn More.
Sam Walton’s Approach to Giving Employees Feedback

WalMartThere are lots of great stories about Sam Walton, the legendary founder of Wal-Mart. Here’s one of my favorites about Mr. Sam and delivering recognition.Walton was always out visiting Wal-Mart stores. He was doing that one day when he spotted a young associate who was folding sweaters for display.
She was having a hard time and the sweaters were folded in several different ways. Walton approached her.
“You sure are working hard, young lady,” he began. “Would you like to see how you can that better?”
Naturally, the young associate agreed and Walton spent the next several minutes showing her how to do the job. After she had done it correctly several times, Walton beamed and told her that he really appreciated how she worked to get the sweaters just right.
Then Walton called several other associates over. He pointed out the associate he’d been helping.
“This young woman really does a great job of getting those sweaters ready for display,” said Walton. “I want you to watch her and learn how she does it.”
Many of the managers I’ve seen over the years would have handled this differently. They would have pointed out to the associate that she was doing things “wrong.” They would have corrected her and admonished her to “do it right from now on.”
Walton began by recognizing that the associate was working hard. He asked if she wanted to do things better.
Walton didn’t take credit for teaching her a better way to fold the sweaters. Instead he recognized her effort and learning.
Walton then gave her public recognition for what she’d learned.
What We Can Learn from This Story

Here are a few take-aways.
Recognition is only authentic if the actions are worth recognizing. That doesn’t mean they have to be perfect. You can recognize effort. You can recognize progress. And, of course, you can recognize good work.
Some people believe that you should always “recognize in public.” That’s nonsense. What we can learn from Sam Walton is that a lot of good, effective, authentic recognition happens one-on-one.
Don’t wait to deliver recognition. The sooner, the better.
When you do recognize in public, don’t dilute your praise by taking some of the credit. Sam Walton never mentioned his role in the associate’s learning.
You can deliver recognition just like Sam Walton. Make it authentic and timely and you’ll find that it will empower and inspire.

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