One of our greatest needs as humans is to be seen, known, and valued. Take a moment and think of a time when you felt this way – truly appreciated. Not for a job well done, but for who you are and what you contribute just by being you.
Did something come to mind immediately? Or, did it take a bit of searching through your memory bank? If so, you’re not alone.For many of us, it takes a minute to come up with something because — believe it or not — most people shy away from telling others that they appreciate them, and discount appreciation when they receive it.
I recently had the chance to hear Mike Robbins speak on this topic of appreciation and a few things really stood out to me:
Recognition is about performance — acknowledging someone for doing a great job. For example: “You did a great job in getting your team organized and delivering on that project. The results speak for themselves. Thank you.”
Appreciation is about the person —showing that you value him/her. For example: “You are a valuable member of this team and we’re better because you’re here with us.” Appreciation can also be given even when a project or task does not work out. For example: someone can fail miserably and they do not deserve recognition (they did a bad job), but they still deserve appreciation and may need it more than ever — “I know that didn’t go well, but I want you to know that you’re a really valuable member of our team. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Why? We might feel awkward or vulnerable, or we assume the other person already knows we appreciate them. We also tend to nit-pick all of the little things that drive us crazy about someone (“If he’d just stop doing that” or “if she’d just start doing this more”); by doing so, we miss so many opportunities to tell those people what we love and appreciate about them. Interestingly, Mike’s work shows that when teams focus on what is working and what they are doing well, they perform better and everyone thrives. What’s more, Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey indicates that giving appreciation motivates employees to work hard — and the more appreciated an employee feels, the longer they are likely to stay with the company.
We typically either say something like “Oh that was no big deal” or we try to reciprocate the appreciation – often awkwardly. Mike gave a great example, equating appreciation to giving a birthday present. If someone gives you a birthday present, you wouldn’t give them a gift in return (that would be weird). And you also wouldn’t refuse the gift — it would ruin the gift, offend the giver, and make it less likely that they’d give again in the future.
So, what’s the best way to receive appreciation? Simply accept it. Be gracious. Say “thank you”. That’s it.
Imagine — if we each get better at receiving appreciation, we’ll all give more in return. Just that small change in how we receive appreciation can change the culture of a team, creating a better sense of community, openness and psychological safety.
Start making an impact today by creating a virtual cycle of appreciation — write a letter, pick up the phone, or tell someone in person.