Thank You for Your Service – A Lesson in the Power of Thanks From Our Military Service Members

by Brenda Pohlman

Poster showing all branches of military with "Honor Courage Loyalty" BannerRecognize This! – When recognition and appreciation fully permeate your culture, astounding things can be accomplished, often in the worst of situations.

If you ever doubted the power of recognition, consider the military. I’d venture to say that perhaps no institution on the planet is better at recognition than our armed forces.

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. (and Remembrance Day in many other countries). It’s a holiday near and dear to my heart. Three of my family members are veterans, two of whom are in their 20th year of active duty. Military service is, as they say, a family affair. I’m not a military spouse or parent mind you, just a sister and daughter, but even in my periphery role I’ve had the chance to be involved. I’m enormously proud of my family’s service to our country and am grateful for the countless opportunities I’ve been given to glimpse a peek into the military lives of my loved ones.

But it wasn’t until I worked in the recognition business that the theme of these experiences became so darn obvious to me. It’s all recognition! As a civilian observer (and recognition strategist) I can clearly see that it is utterly embedded into every corner of military culture. Each of the numerous ceremonies and celebrations I’ve attended throughout the years have been oriented around a recognition moment of some kind – situations focused on acknowledging an individual or team for their commitment and good work…and family was invited to be part of it. Imagine that.

Even the most casual interactions with service members are so often laden with recognition. The simple act of being introduced by my family members to their coworkers includes the inevitable sharing of “why this person is great” stories on both sides. It’s as if there’s a genuine eagerness to publicly and sincerely praise colleagues in front of their loved ones.

The evidence of recognition is everywhere, even at home. My brother’s house, for example, is chock full of representations of career recognition moments – framed handwritten notes of thanks and congratulations, photos signed by legions of teammates, official commemorations of important milestones. The décor is what a designer might describe as “Navy chic,” akin to other trendy decorating styles only with way more recognition on display!

Clearly, this is all by design. The military is simply leveraging the power of thanks to motivate and engage its employees. And it’s doing so in a big, bold, social, emotionally impactful way.

If recognition, praise and appreciation is embraced by the military to inspire people to do amazing things with enormous risk and often immeasurable personal sacrifice, imagine what it can do for your workforce.

On this Veterans Day, take a lesson from our men and women in uniform and thank a coworker. Then pay it back by thanking a veteran too.

Who will you thank today?

Brenda Pohlman

About Brenda Pohlman

A senior recognition strategist and consultant for Globoforce, Brenda Pohlman might better be called a Recognition Detective. Brenda spends her days helping customers uncover and assess recognition practices and set new directions to achieve strategic goals. She has spent the majority of her career consulting with companies on a wide range of HR practices including employee engagement, performance management, rewards & recognition, talent assessment, and training. Brenda holds a B.A. in Psychology from Boston University.

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