Companies and associations tend to recognize individual achievement at the beginning and the end of the career path. But what about the middle? What about the individuals demonstrating excellence who are too experienced to be considered new professionals, but not yet ready for lifetime and career achievement awards?
It's an inexcusable gap. Two examples I recently encountered offer possibilities for filling it:
The outstanding television, stage, and film actress Viola Davis was just honored by The New York Drama Critics' Circle for sustained achievement. What a wonderful thing to recognize: sustained achievement. Think of people in your own organization who have demonstrated excellence in many efforts and made important contributions to the success of your organization and/or profession over long periods of time. How are you acknowledging such achievements?
The other possible model for thinking different about recognition is the list. The current issue of TIME features their annual list of the world's most influential people in four categories: leaders, artists, heroes, and thinkers. Lists allow us to meaningfully recognize diverse achievements of many people at one time. Many of the names on TIME's list were familiar to me, but dozens of them less so. In reading about those less known to me I learned of some of the amazing work being done by people not often in the general spotlight.
In Dan Pink's most recent book Drive, he asserts that people are intrinsically motivated by working toward a compelling purpose, developing mastery in the skills of their chosen profession/position, and having sufficient autonomy to do their work.
I have no doubt that like the TIME 100 or Viola Davis, every profession or organization has individuals deserving of recognition because of the purpose they pursue, their achievements in doing so, and the example their mastery inspires and offers to others. Though they may indeed be internally driven, it's time we offered them some external recognition that they do indeed make a difference.