Badges and awards are results; but Scoutmaster's know it's more important to recognize effort.
In his book Shine Psychiatrist Ned Hallowell concludes that acknowledgment of effort provides vital encouragement, motivation and inspires greater confidence, but also promotes moral behavior;
“When a person feels recognized and connected to the larger group, she knows viscerally, not just intellectually, that she has made a contribution others value. Not only does this motivate her to do more and try harder, but it instills a desire to look out for the larger group…. It leads a person to do the right thing even when no one is looking.”
Showing appreciation is part of a process he calls 'shine';
- Recognize effort, not just results. Of course, you want the results, but if you recognize ongoing effort, results will more likely ensue. Cheerleading works.
- Notice details. Generic acknowledgment pales next to specific recognition.
- Provide recognition in person.
- Make others look good, not bad.
- Recognition is a powerful tool to preserve self-esteem.
- Acknowledge people’s existence! say hello, give a nod of the head, a high five, a smile in passing.
- Tap into the power of positive feedback. Remember that positive feedback often consolidates gains better than learning from mistakes.
- Monitor progress. Performance improves when a person’s progress toward a goal is monitored regularly.
- Establish the habit of recognition of hard work and progress.
- Bring in the marginalized people. In most organizations, about 15 percent of people feel unrecognized, misunderstood, devalued, and generally disconnected. Not only is recognition good for that 15 percent to help them feel valued, it is good for the other 85 percent as well, as it boots the positive energy across the organization.
I am not really cut out to be a cheerleader so I have to work at this sort of thing. I don't engage in the kind of empty, reactive, insincere praise that is often reduced to catchphrases. I do look for honest expressions of effort and take every opportunity to build on the least expression of initiative in my Scouts by recognizing them in front of their peers.
We know that a positive reaction to effort, even when it falls short of the mark, is important. Negative reactions tend to make Scouts defensive and reluctant to try again. What's important is not just to mouth words of encouragement but to actually be encouraging.
Scouts who get honest recognition for honest effort go on to achieve big things.