Why Practicing Appreciation Matters
Recently I was engaged in a discussion with a leader about the lack of effort made to express appreciation in the workplace. “Really, someone can’t walk down the hall to express appreciation, they send an email!” So the point isn’t just that you express appreciation, it is how you make someone feel.
The truth is we all know what she is talking about.
She then shared a story with me about sending postcards to her assistant when she travelled. Her assistant displayed every one of the postcards she received in her cubical. When others in the office asked her assistant why she had all these postcards up, she shared her story with such enthusiasm about her boss sending them to her when she travelled.
She felt she mattered as a person, not just as someone’s assistant.
Highest Driver Of Engagement
According to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, the highest driver of engagement is whether or not employees feel their managers are generally interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40% of employees felt engaged.
Appreciating is simply recognizing what is good. It tells the other person we care about them as a person. Appreciation is not hard and it is not time-consuming.
I did a Personal Branding session with a leadership team that had worked together for about seven years. Before we started the session I asked them to go around the table to share something personal about themselves that people wouldn’t already know. I thought this would be tough because they knew each other for so long and much to my surprise it wasn’t. These aren’t the types of things they ever talked about.
This simple exchange of sharing something personal opened up a deeper level of appreciation and conversation within the group. They all became more engaged. This one exercise changed the dynamics of how the team worked together moving forward.
People want to be seen as a person and know others care.
It bears mentioning that expressing appreciation once isn’t enough; it needs to be repeated and become a habit. For example, you are known for being considerate. This label doesn’t stick if you hold the door open for someone once. It sticks if you are consistent in performing acts of consideration.
Researcher Marcial Losada, The Art of Balancing Negative and Positive Feedback, found that among high performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighed the negative feedback by a ratio of 5 to 1.
So if this is true why aren’t we all doing it more often? And why does it sometimes feel awkward or forced?
The most obvious answer is we are not fluent in practicing positive language. We have become so accustomed to speaking to what doesn’t work or addressing the problems that we forget our manners. It is important to consider when you are having a conversation what you want the outcome to be and how do you want to make the other person or people feel?
Change your focus and catch people doing things right. Instead of focusing on what isn’t there or working, start by appreciating what is.
To help you easily incorporate appreciation into your daily activities here are seven practical ideas you can implement as a leader to create a higher level of engagement:
#1 – Begin meetings by sharing accomplishments before tackling the to-do-list and problems. Sharing what has gone well first will shift the energy for the balance of the meeting and everyone will be more engaged.
#2 – Stay committed to your one-on-one meetings even when there are no problems to discuss. This time provides a great opportunity to talk about what the person is doing well and learn more about him/her. Honouring your meeting times makes employees feel valued (a top complaint is the cancellation of personal meetings).
#3 – When a team member exceeds expectations, reach out to him/her and extend your appreciation. An email can work if you are not physically there although delivering your message in person is always much more meaningful. What you appreciate grows.
#4 – Repeat a private acknowledgement for a job well done, publicly in a group setting, when appropriate. This boosts self-esteem and confidence. It also reinforces their value and significance.
#5 – When closing a meeting, express your appreciation for everyone’s commitment to the project and their contribution to moving it forward, even if it is their job. A small gesture with a huge payback.
#6 – When you notice positive changes in a colleague’s leadership style let him/her know. Especially if you know they are attending training sessions or are engaged in coaching. Reinforcement creates sustainability.
#7 – Ask others what they care about. If you find out they played in a tournament over the weekend or participated in a run for charity, ask them about it. Genuine appreciation makes them feel safe and frees them up to do their best work.
Your Appreciation Challenge
Commit to expressing appreciation a minimum of five times a day. Since we engage in so many more conversations throughout the course of a day five times is easy.
Of course, as it catches on you’ll be finding yourself doing it a lot more. I even thank my kids for doing what is expected because I really do appreciate them picking up after themselves!
Extend this practice to include everyone you interact with – your spouse, your kids, your friends, your butcher or the security guard in your building. When you focus on ways to express appreciation the way you see the world around you starts to change.
Align yourself with what matters most to you. Live your brand fully expressed with intention and purpose to play bigger!
Are you interested in having a conversation to explore how you can define your personal brand and accelerate your growth as a leader, individually or as a team? Send an e-mail to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation.