Show Me the Love: Recognition that Makes a Difference (with video)

Yesterday a high-potential, high-performing VP called:

Karin, the thing is, I know I’ve been accomplishing a lot. And I shouldn’t need this. But, I just wish one of the big guys would just say “thank you.” HR and my peers have told me “Oh, if you haven’t heard anything, you can be sure you’re doing just fine. if you’re screwing up, that will be perfectly clear. No news is good news. But. The truth is, I’m so hungry for a simple “thank you,” or a nod that I’m on the right track. Is that bad?

Of course not, I replied. “It means you’re human.”

Yes, even the guys getting paid “the big bucks” need to hear that they matter and are making a difference.

If they are, and you’re in a position to tell them– please do. And if they’re not, please tell them why. Silence does nothing to advance the game.

And for everyone else. If an exec being given increased responsibility and a healthy paycheck feels this way, imagine what the lack of meaningful feedback and recognition feels like at the front line.

When it comes to showing appreciation, it’s hard to over do recognition–  if it’s done well and is spoken from the heart.

And so this Valentine’s Day we bring you…

What I Appreciate Most About Your Leadership

What do you appreciate most about each member of your team. Have you told them? The other night I heard a fantastic leadership best practice.

Every time the leader has someone new join his team, he takes the time to write down “why I hired you,” frames it, and gives it to the new team member. Powerful, confidence-building reinforcement.

Each new employee starts the job knowing what their new boss appreciates most. Buoying reinforcement, sprinkled with insights into what their new leader cares about.

I was sharing this idea with a leader on my team, and lamented, I sure wish I had done that for you guys. She looked right at me, and said. “It’s not too late.” Her thirsty look made me realize I had work to do.

So this Sunday morning, I worked to identify the 3 areas I most appreciate about each member of my direct report team. I didn’t over think it. The whole exercise took less than an hour. No fancy frames, just a weekend email to start their week.

Why It Was Hard

Just as I started to write, my internal struggle began. What if. They were disappointed in the characteristics I appreciated? I would have to be clear, this was merely my view on how their leadership was showing up, a subjective, single perspective.

I also realized how little practice I had just recognizing leadership qualities, without the context of accomplishments or results. I did not want to appreciate them for amazing year over year growth. It was about how, not what.

And of course there was the awkward constraint of only focusing on appreciation. We live in a balanced feedback world. I resisted the urge to share the “and now you just need to work on” stuff. Save that for another day.

What I Appreciate Most

The exercise became a meditation. I felt deep appreciation and connection bubbling up. I became overwhelmed by thoughts of synergy, and how much I appreciated them as a collective team. As I looked at the total list, it was not lost on me that what I chose to appreciate, said as much about me as them. I appreciated characteristics I’m missing, and those I value deeply.

A few excerpts from these notes…

I appreciate your:

  • high-energy, fascinated approach to everything. You love life and it shows.
  • relentless efforts to build genuine teams (down, up, and sideways). You live your motto, “no one wins unless we’re all winning”
  • strategic approach to what’s most important. You’re not easily distracted by “noise.”
  • deep desire to grow, eagerness to learn, and willingness to try
  • highly developed ability to listen, listen some more, and then speak with wisdom
  • strategic, scenario-based thinking. I love that before I can finish a sentence, you have a calculator doing the math
  • commitment to God and your family. It shows in your day job.

Tell each member of your team what you most appreciate about them. Be specific. Write it down. Don’t assume they heard you the last time you said it in the context of the other noise. The exercise will enhance your leadership. Let us know how it goes.

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein