Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty provide their thoughts on: The importance of recognition.


We always find it surprising that so few airport leaders take the time to recognise and celebrate success – and we don’t mean chartering private jets to go to the Caribbean!

Millions has been spent on research studies on ‘motivation’ and ‘engagement’. Yet, with hardly any expenditure at all, a whole culture can be shifted by changing mindset to a more positive approach: emphasising gratitude instead of blame, moving 
from fault finding and put-downs to positive reinforcement and compliments, and building on strengths rather than weaknesses. 

And it really does not take that much to recognise someone’s efforts, to celebrate success and to express gratitude. Simple things like saying ‘well done’, ‘thank you’, and ‘I really appreciate it’ are phrases which can make all the difference to how people feel. 

Of course these compliments must be genuine and based on real achievements to have an impact. Still, a small shift in this direction can make a huge difference. As Mark Twain said: “I can live two months on a good compliment!”

We were once asked to coach a highly driven CEO who wanted to understand why his staff were so disinclined to go the extra mile for him. He achieved excellent business results but there was a constant turnover of staff leaving for other apparently less attractive opportunities. He really did not know why. 

We asked him when he had last praised a member of his team for a job well done. When had he surprised someone with a birthday card? 

When had he last taken the time to have a coffee with someone and not just talk about work? Had he ever taken time out to celebrate his own personal achievements? 

Evidence from the field of positive psychology, made popular over recent years by Martin Seligman, an American psychologist, shows how accentuating the positive can help build confidence and competence. 

Taking the time to reflect on success – and the competencies and qualities that are needed to achieve it – is time well spent. Altruistic behaviour has been shown to improve the resilience and health of the giver as well as the receiver. 

Anne Herbert is accredited with first coining the term ‘random act of kindness’ when she wrote it on a napkin in a café in Sausalito. It’s an idea, which has been picked up by social media and has resulted in initiatives which benefit the wider community. 

Never underestimate the long-term impact of thinking and caring about others. Invest time and effort in recognising and celebrating success if you want to achieve sustainable performance and encourage commitment. 

And in that spirit, we’d like to congratulate editor, Joe Bates, and the Airport World team on 20 successful years of publication!

About the authors

Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty are organisers of ACI's annual 'Leadership and Change' Summit and directors of This Is... They can be contacted at

Article originally published in Airport World Magazine January 11, 2016.

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Dr. Richard Plenty
Managing Director of This Is
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Terri Morrissey
Founding Director of This Is
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