Thought Catalysts: David Marquet on Giving Recognition

October 26, 2016 David Marquet, Speakers' Spotlight

There are leaders and then there are followers. Generally the idea is to be the former. 

But perhaps it's worth a shot to look at this phrase the other way around. Maybe to be a leader, it's worth being a follower. 

The people who lead the way with awesome ideas and unique talents did so by acquiring knowledge and applying it in new and interesting ways. We all need to learn stuff to lead stuff. And those who do it best inspire others to act. 

They are Thought Catalysts. Here they are as told by the movers and shakers from Speakers' Spotlight


If you have a “zero-defect mentality,” it means that when things are going well, you feel no need to do anything or change anything. But it may be the reason your top-performers are losing motivation, or worse, leaving.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well—no,” management science researcher and consultants David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom write for Forbes. “The zero-defect mentality …is part of the reason why 51% of Americans are looking for new jobs. It’s behind the popular saying ‘People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.’ It’s also why even top companies struggle to retain their best talent and are always trying to come up with new ways to attract and engage people who do great work. The zero-defect mentality can even be blamed for lagging productivity and disengagement. After all, employees of every age and industry self-report that the best way to motivate them is to sincerely show appreciation for work well done. And when top players who are smart, capable, and driven get left out of the positive-feedback loop, they lose steam.”

It’s easy to normalize your people’s good work, but to retain good work, you have to recognize it as such. Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviours. That part is fairly easy, when you see or hear about something done well, acknowledge it. A “good job” and “great work” go a long way.

It’s also not a bad idea to take a look at your structure for employee evaluations or grading and how it corresponds with rewards. Are you connecting the two? Sometimes simply providing data to your people about their performance results in a natural desire to improve.

Other important to questions to ask: Are the rewards limited? Do they pit people against each other? Rewards should not have limits and should not encourage internal competition. Rewards should pit your people against external forces, like competitors.

Make sure you’re rewarding desired behaviour and when possible do it right away.


David Marquet is a retired US Navy Captain who helps business with organizational design and effective leadership. To read more of his posts, visit his page on Speakers' Spotlight. To have David speak at your next function, email Speakers' Spotlight at 

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