Image Courtesy of Adobe StockAs you can imagine there was a lot of congratulating and applauding that took place throughout the trip, but especially at the commencement. All of the celebratory shouting, hugging, and hand shaking got me thinking about a topic. It’s probably one of the most important topics we can consider if we want to be leaders who have significant influence with those we lead. Significant influence is a powerful lever for creating high levels of engagement with our team members (or family members) and that is what leads to outstanding performance and results. I remember early on in my leadership journey hearing repeatedly about what truly motivates people. What surprised me was that money was usually not in the top 5 (of research studies). Another thing that surprised me was when one of my mentors told me that appreciation and recognition were almost always #1 and #2. I found that hard to believe as a young leader. But the last 15 years have confirmed the validity of that again and again. You may have noticed that I listed appreciation and recognition separately. They are distinct. The basic difference is that appreciation is typically given privately or one-on-one. Recognition is public. I learned many years ago how important it is to know which one people prefer. I actually had a team member who really disliked being publicly recognized. I might even go so far as to say that he hated it. He disliked it so much that if I were to have recognized him publicly I’m confident it would’ve had a negative impact on our relationship. The other pitfall I have fallen prey to, and have witnessed countless other times, is appreciation expressed poorly. Because of how the feedback was delivered, in some cases, it even wound up having a negative impact. Give me 30 more seconds and I’ll give you two quick ways you can give appreciation or recognition that will create maximum impact.
Hitting the TargetMost of the time when we think about showing a person appreciation we think of saying things like, “Thank you” or “Great job!” The problem is that while the sentiment is nice, this is one of those times that “it’s the thought that counts” might actually not apply. 1. Be specific about what they did that you appreciated. Hearing “Great job!” feels nice for a few seconds. But often people are left wondering what you meant. Let’s face it. The people you want to appreciate do a lot of things. Which one did they do a great job with? What was it about what they did that you really liked? The more specific you are with your appreciation the more likely you are to get the behavior repeated. If you aren’t specific you might actually end up leaving the person frustrated because they don’t know what you appreciated. And they aren’t likely to ask. Saying, “Thank you” is nice, but doesn’t take much effort. Taking the time to clearly think through and then articulate what you appreciated adds tremendously to the weight of your gratitude. It’s a simple, but powerful difference. Here are two examples:
- “Bob, I really want to thank you for the amazing detail you provided in that report for me on the fabrication department’s productivity.”
- “Susan, I really appreciated how you handled that frustrated customer this morning. You were patient and walked them through the situation with great care.”
- “The details were extremely helpful because they uncovered some important flaws in our process that could easily have been hidden by numbers reported in summary. If it wasn’t for that report I would have made an incorrect decision on how to proceed. I thank you. Our stockholders thank you. Well done!”
- “Your ability to handle that customer was witnessed by a number of your co-workers. You perfectly modeled our values and that really helps to reinforce the kind of culture we want here. And, it also allowed me to stay focused on a task that really needed my attention. Thank you!”
Showing appreciation is one of the most effective ways to boost your leadership impact.