In the veggie aisle of the supermarket, I ran into a top manager who works for one of my leadership coaching clients (let’s call him B.) In a rare candid moment (just us and the cucumbers), she vented:
“Things are going sooooo much better since B’s been working with you, Darce. But if I had one wish, I’d like to have a little more appreciation at work. I’d like to hear him tell me what’s GOOD about my work, instead of pointing out everything I didn’t do. Is that really so hard?”
I stood there, smiling and nodding, in total agreement that no, simple appreciation at work isn’t that hard.
And what I knew at the time—but wasn’t my story to share, since since confidentiality is at the heart of my coaching with leaders—is that B thinks this manager walks on water. He believes in her, admires her, and would do anything to keep her at his company.
But as the kale and I learned, she wasn’t hearing it.
So it led me to creating this simple guide to help leaders show more appreciation at work. Please use it, share it (or secretly leave it out to help the leader you know who needs it most.)
How to Show More Appreciation at Work
If you’re a leader or aspire to be a better one to those around you, here’s a secret:
Appreciation is one of the most powerful tools to motivate employee engagement and retention.
It works better than other strategies for one reason: we will never be able to control other people, even if they work for us. (In fact, we can only control three things in our careers.)
The sooner you realize this, the sooner you’ll succeed as a leader.
But if it’s so important, why isn’t it something we do automatically?
In short, it’s because our brains are programmed to worry about the bad stuff. So as busy leaders who want to succeed, our tendency is to talk about all the negative. Sound familiar? If so, read on.
We have to train our brains to recognize all the good stuff that’s happening. And believe me—there is a lot of good stuff (or else your company would be painting the “out of business” sign on your front door.)
The three strategies in this simple guide will help. Try them, and you’ll be surprised how much impact they’ll make on your business and your people immediately.
Strategy 1. Paint the Picture of What You See.
Sometimes we struggle to acknowledge and appreciate others on our team because the goal isn’t complete or isn’t yet successful.
We wait to celebrate until there are results—the project delivered, the client won, the problem solved.
Those moments take a long time to get here. So to save our appreciation for the end goal only is a small-minded waste.
Because it’s the right effort that gets the right results.
Painting the picture for someone else of the steps you’re watching them take can be very powerful and affirming – even if the ultimate goal hasn’t been met yet.
You can teach yourself to notice—and call attention to—the positive efforts going on every day. What are all the little things that are happening that add up to big improvements? What choices, decisions, and actions are taking place all the time, that in the long run, make a big difference?
Once you notice those efforts, call them out! You can say things like:
- “Hey Tom, I noticed you spent extra time with the new hire as we started on our project. That was really smart – nobody else thought of that. I’m sure it was helpful to him, too, and I just wanted you to know I noticed.”
- “Sandy, I wanted to thank you for always bringing a fun, positive attitude to the XYZ meeting. The work gets hard sometime and I noticed that you never stop smiling, and I really appreciate it!”
- “Drew, we may disagree sometimes, but you need to know that I see how you always have our company’s best interest at heart. No matter what our differences, I’m grateful that you are supporting us that way.”
- “Barb, you’re kinda quiet back there in accounting, but I was thinking about you today and just wanted you to know I’ve noticed the extra attention you’re paying to the XYZ reports. It’s helpful and I appreciate it.”
What do you see someone else doing that could be acknowledged? Paint the picture for them so they can see it, too.
Strategy 2. Create a Space for Appreciation
Contrary to what the wrinkle-cream ads want us to think, time is actually our friend.
We all are given the same amount each day, and we have the ability to choose what we do with it.
Powerful leaders use their time to create a space in everyday events to recognize someone, express appreciation, or acknowledge a kindness.
You’re not too busy for this. In fact, you can start creating this space within the spaces already planned on your calendar, such as:
- Internal meetings
- Conference calls
- One-on-one check-in meetings
- Client meetings
- Travel to clients, customers, or industry events
Think you don’t have enough time to create space for appreciation? Well, how long does it take to say:
- “Before we launch into today’s agenda, I wanted to thank the tech team for all they did to help us move ahead on this project, especially action A, B, and C. Really appreciate all you did, Alice, Randy, and Taj. I’m so grateful you’re on our team. Now to our first agenda item. . .”
- “Barb, before we dive in to the to-do list, I just want to say how great I think it is that you’ve been able to keep our clients happy during our system updates. I really expected more complaints to come my way, and they haven’t, so that tells me I know you and your team are doing something special to take care of our clients. What’s your secret?”
- “Hi everyone, and before our call starts, I just want to say a public thanks to Jonathan for thinking ahead and creating a summary of the issues we need to prioritize for our marketing budget. Very helpful. Thanks, J.”
Plus, once you get in the habit of creating space for appreciation, you’ll be able to use it during all those accidental meetings that pop up in your hallways, break rooms, parking lots and even your bathrooms (although really–let’s finish our biz there and take the conversation elsewhere.)
What’s the space you could make today for more appreciation at work? Just pick one and try it out.
Strategy 3. Just Say Thank You (Really)
For some people, the words “thank you” have become a little like “have a nice day” – empty of any true meaning or sincerity.
In fact, one client told me that when his boss says “thank you,” he really means “you can go now.” Ouch.
That doesn’t have to be you. You can try a different tack to show more appreciation at work.
The next time you are ready to say “thank you” to someone, look him or her in the eyes and say the words “Thank you.”
Then, while still looking at them, say quietly to yourself, “Really.”
Why does this work?
The pause it takes you to think “really” creates a beat, a moment. That moment keeps you present and aware of what you are expressing. It also creates a moment for the thanked person to soak it in – and believe what you say.
Of course, if you really want your words to count, make them more permanent and jot a note, too. Contrary to popular believe, the thank-you note is alive and well and a powerful yet simple employee communication tool.
Buy an inexpensive set of note cards at your local drugstore and take 90 seconds to write to someone you appreciate – even if you see them every day. Unlike email, physical notes still get read, saved, and remembered. After all, like appreciation itself, it’s an art. (It’s also a great way to build your visibility and get noticed (without networking).
Put these three simple tools into action, and you’ll immediately boost your employee engagement and enhance your own leadership credibility. Plus, you’ll feel more connected to the people in your business and in your life.
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