Although the idea of rewarding Soldiers and leaders for performing beyond their duties, responsibilities and expectations seems obvious, most leaders avoid the practice. Maybe it’s because they feel that showing appreciation undermines their authority…or perhaps they want to avoid stirring up jealousy in other Soldiers. Perhaps they even feel they don’t have the time to do it, or they feel embarrassed praising people openly. This is a shame, in my opinion…
The most successful military leaders are those who recognize and reward their Soldier’s extraordinary efforts. This not only builds trust, but it strengthens loyalty as well. Retention issues are oftentimes much lower in units that have a strong bond with their leadership. Bottom line, rewarding Soldiers for their accomplishments is a good thing. That being said, here are my Top 7 Creative Ways to Reward Your Army Team.
To begin, it is essential to be consistent when rewarding your Soldiers – Consistency is vital. For example, if you praise often during one IDT, and then skip the next month entirely, your unit will wonder what’s going on. Creating a culture of recognition and reward is important – so once you start, make sure you continue.
Something that I like to personally do is take your team out to lunch or breakfast– and then, as a last-minute surprise, give them the rest of the day off. Anytime one of my Soldiers beats me on the APFT, I take them out for breakfast and then give them the rest of the day off. Just a simple motivator to do well and allowed me to get to know some of my Soldiers at a more personal level…win-win for me.
Depending on the size of your Armory parking lot, a good parking spot may come at a premium. Reward Soldiers by assigning them a stellar parking spot for a month or so. Consider dedicating a permanent parking space for this very purpose and rotate it among your star performers. Nothing can boost a Soldier’s motivation to do well than being able to park next to the Company Commander and 1SG.
In our Army’s bottom-line culture, we tend to focus on end results and not realize the effort involved in simply getting there. The best way to keep Soldiers trying hard and working toward success is to reward effort. Take a moment to discover who’s giving their all and find a small way to acknowledge those efforts personally…maybe even recognizing them in front of their peers at final formation. I know I personally like to be recognized for the effort I am putting into things as opposed to maybe being commended once the end state is reached.
Reward dedicated Soldiers and leaders by offering flexibility. My personal experience with this lies in the fact that I live in DC, but drill in Pennsylvania (about 4 hours away). My Commander appreciates the work I do and oftentimes will let me leave a little early, even if I have some work to do. This vote of confidence in your Soldiers’ ability to self-manage and get things done can be a great acknowledgement and motivator.
If a Platoon or your entire unit continues to knock your socks off, have a party. Our Battalion loves to have their yearly dining-in and other events but Soldiers rarely get to celebrate their success as well. In my opinion, the very best parties (the ones that truly feel like a reward) are “planned surprises.” Clear some time on the training schedules for an hour or two in the afternoon to prepare for a Company or Platoon meeting that’s really a party.
Lastly, a simple and heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way. Taking the time to call a Soldier into your office for the sole purpose of thanking them or sending a handwritten note is a personal and profound gesture. In our hectic, abbreviated and automated world, don’t forget the more human connections that make people feel valued.
In summary, these are my top 7 creative ways to reward your Army Team. At the end of the day, your job as a military leader is to get things done through your Soldiers. It’s also your job to motivate and recognize your Soldiers. You owe it to your Soldiers to SHOW THEM that you care about them and appreciate their efforts. You can do that by following any of the advice listed above, or come up with some other creative methods on your own. The bottom line is to make sure that you do it.
What are your thoughts? What do you do to reward your Soldiers? Leave a comment and let us know.