Coaching vs Recognition – What’s More Important In Leadership?

It's Crazy What A 1-Year Old Can Teach You

My son a few months ago showed me that in teaching and leading, recognition is NOT as important as bringing value to the individual or teammate. Recognition

Here is the setting:  Several months ago me and my wife are in a race to the finish line in getting this young guy potty trained.  He’s winning the battle at this point so we are using every imaginable incentive to keep him on the potty.  This particular instance, I was reading his favorite book to him and at the same time having him call out certain pictures or words that he knew.

As I’m reading one of his favorite books, “No, No, Yes, Yes,” Major was really on it this particular day.      I’m interpreting the picture on one page that says we shouldn’t pick our nose, that’s a “no, no.”  After I state this, my son jumps ahead of me and points to the next picture and says:  “tissue” alluding to using tissue instead of picking your nose.  Me and my wife praised him for knowing the alternative to picking your nose.

I lifted my hand and said “Hi-Five” indicating to Major that I was pleased and wanted to praise and recognize him for his answer.  My son did something so definitive that it taught me a great principle when it comes to leadership:  He did not give me a Hi-Five, he literally pointed to the book and said “READ” essentially telling me he didn’t want my praise/recognition, he wanted me to continue in assisting his learning.

I politely told him (and laughing at the same time) to stop rushing me.  My wife and I enjoyed that little piece of comedy and thank God we actually caught it on video.

Here is what my 1-year old son taught me at the time that applies to leading people:  People value you more as a leader when you increase their capacity in learning versus praising them for something they already know or have done.

Please don’t get me wrong, recognition is a primary component of showing we are pleased with work done or accomplished by someone on our team.  However, recognition is only as valuable as the lesson learned before.

Here is the primary reason why people warrant a leader who increases their ability to learn more important than a cheer-leader who provides praise and recognition:

  • Teaching someone anything that makes their life better or enlightens them in an area they didn’t know will always be more valuable than cheering them on for something they already did.  Case in point:  Have you ever heard Michael Jordan talk about the cheer-leaders on the UNC sideline and how they impacted his life?  However, I have heard him mention that Coach Dean Smith taught him principles about being a man.

Question:  What are some of the life lessons that your favorite teachers taught you about life?  Would enjoy hearing from you!

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