How to … appreciate people

Appreciation needs to be precise, immediate and honest in order to motivate and touch a person’s heart.

When I lived in the US the term “Appreciated” was used around me daily. Whenever I did something helpful, I got an “I appreciate your help” or when I hold a door for someone, a mumbled “appreciated” found its way to my ear. It only took a few days and I was so used to the term – even used it myself – that it quickly turned into an empty phrase. 

It reminds me of a chat I had the other day with a colleague, who actually got a positive comment from his project-lead but it seemed so hollow that it wasn’t perceived as honest appreciation.

So, if positive words themselves are not enough to be perceived as real appreciation what is needed? When does a person feel appreciated? 

The questions in combination highlight: there is a sender and a receiver of appreciation. Both people might perceive “appreciation” quite differently. Gary Chapman describes 5 types of how people express and receive appreciation differently [that is: receiving gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and words of affirmation]. Feel free to dig deeper into these 5 types and discover how you actually receive appreciation.

In this article I will only focus on words of affirmation as a way to express and receive appreciation.

When is a positive feedback perceived as true appreciation? 

Preciseness

When you want to appreciate your team member, tell them precisely what you liked and what you want to honor. I recall team meetings after which I got a “well done” and nothing more. “Well done” is so easily said that the receiver cannot even be sure whether you mean it or not. Rather tell someone “I like how you prepared and designed the agenda”, “Thank you for investing your time to prepare for the meeting” or “I was impressed how you handled the critical client question. Well done.” The thought of a precise sentence requires much more thought of yourself and it ensures that you do not slip in a half-heartedly “appreciated”. 

Immediateness

Whenever you see a noteworthy performance, give positive feedback instantly. First of all this will ensure that you can be precise, but you also eliminate the danger of forgetting. Personally, I have decided to appreciate and encourage colleagues always, when I see something cool. Be it a good call moderation, a thought-through newsletter, a well-designed slide or just a beautiful outfit. And the result is always the same: a happy smile. Even more, if you are working with the appreciated people on a regular basis, you build a track record of trust which you will need when you have to give critical feedback at some point. Therefore: appreciate whenever possible and invest in the relationship with your team member. 

Honesty 

This might be the most crucial one. It leads to the underlying motivation of your positive words: Why do you express words of affirmation? Sadly I have met a lot of people who have learned appreciation as a “leadership tool” or even worse as a manipulation-technique. But I am convinced that this attitude backfires because you will “try” to appreciate people and won’t get any result. If you want your team member to feel appreciated, you have to be honest in your motives towards that person. To create this “feeling” of appreciation, your words must be surrounded with an acceptance of your team member or the one you are appreciating. 

I want to encourage you: Start today with uplifting, precise, immediate and honest appreciation! Invest thereby in your relationships and build up the colleagues, team members and even friends around you. I know, it needs a lot of training and thought to nail these precious appreciation moments. But the result is worth the effort. 

What do you think? What else is needed for a positive feedback to be felt as true appreciation? I am eager to get your response. 

Spread the Passion

“Wer keine Leidenschaft versprüht, sollte nicht leiten, denn beide, Freude und Frustration, stecken andere an” [Tomas Härry | Von der Kunst, andere zu führen]

> Who doesn’t spread passion, shouldn’t lead, because both, joy and frustration, infect others <

“What made your week?” is a classical opening question to my team’s weekly 30min call on Fridays. Each one shares highlights, moments of victory and situations to be thankful for.

Even after a long week I tend to leave the teamcall uplifted and strengthened because I have heard so many positive reports that my passion for my team and job is fueled again.

One Friday I thought it might be helpful to also talk about the downtimes of a week – just to lead in a balanced way.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened…

After the first person shared his/her frustration the atmosphere already shifted to the bad. It became more intense when more people shared their bad moments… until everybody was quiet and depressed within 10minutes. Uff!

I am a skilled moderator – but this team dynamic that I started was hard to handle. I always try to end the call positive – but in this case I hardly made it to sealevel before ending.

Sharing my view with a colleague, we both agreed that the question for frustration didn’t do any good at all. And will never be asked again!

When leading people, we need to be aware and conscious of what we want to achieve. As leaders we are in charge of the topics shared and the atmosphere created – including handling our very own frustrations.

So – what are we doing with the downtimes of our weeks?

For sure there need to be sessions with a team where frustrations can be adressed openly. But we must be aware that we need to be one place, talking face2face and have enough time to sort things out. We need to have time to recover from the bad emotion and work through it, so that we can leave the meeting in a good mood.

As leaders we need to work through our emotion in advance – being a good example and not crashing a whole team with our negativity. Harder done than said. But worth it when having a highly motivated team at the end.

I want to challenge and encourage to stop talking about your frustrations and instead start lifting others up, celebrate successes and bring a positive atmosphere to your team.


Walking with purpose

The other night I was having dinner in a fine argentinian restaurant in the middle of Milan chatting with some colleagues. The internationality of the group, the fine Malbec wine and good company inspired us to share our envisioning of good vacation.

One colleague admitted that he and his wife cannot find a suitable vacation solution together – so basically she was getting her beach-resort-experience whilst he was looking for a comfy chair with seaview and getting drunk on fine spirits.

In retrospective I am not sure whether I reacted suitable. Actually, what is suitable in the pure presence of this devastating truth!?

The absence of purpose and vision within this very successful men’s life struck me. Don’t get me wrong – there doesn’t need to be a purpose on every step you take. But if you are living a purposeful life I suspect you might use your days off as recreation time, load yourself with power, joy and inspiration for the next episode of crazy work ahead.

In Milan, I actually also met another man. He first seemed quiet, distinguished and quite old – to be honest. But when he started to speak in the meeting, his eyes beamed, every word well chosen, addressing precisely the topic why he had attended the gathering. You could sense that he knew who he was, what he was here for and what he wanted to achieve.

He talked with purpose.

Both men had a great career, earned a lot of money – even worked in the same company. Still, the huge difference between them was obvious.

I believe, the latter man had an answer to his “why?”. He knew his purpose in life – and drawn from there his purpose for the meeting he was attending.

Do you?