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

Posted in Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Wow! Awesome idea about the “why I hired you”! That is special. I try to write, handwritten, not to team members. Also, look for opportunities to brag on them publicly. Happy Friday, Karin!

  2. Great read.
    Another benefit is that the exercise strengthens your awareness and vocabulary – two powerful attributes of a growing leader. Awareness in this instance means that you are looking at someone as an individual with unique talents and attributes. You are differentiating them from everyone else on the team. You consider them – deliberately. Yes, it is spiritual. — I also believe the exercise (which I have never done!) will improve your ability to use language & increase your praise-vocabulary. I look at your last compliment and how there may be nuances between “commitment” “interest” “attitude” “energy” “embrace” “priority”…… While I have never done this, I am all for improving my praise vocabulary and I appreciate you sending me on my way in this pursuit.

  3. For me the key was consistency and directness.

    I found things to appreciate often and expressed them. And I didn’t beat around the bush.

    “Great job on the XYZ account” works.

    “Here’s what you did well in that meeting…” works.

  4. A good leaders knows, understands and communicates the value of an employee. Let an employee feel like human and not machine. If you have hired someone then let them be proud for their values and don’t only consider them as a human resource used in your organisation.

    Everyone wants to be appreciated, wants to be loved and wants to know the worth he brings to an organisation. I believe that some simple acts and words from the leader can help an employee keep his self esteem high and he will be more motivated and happy to contribute towards the sucess of leader.

    Thanks Karin for sharing such wonderful thoughts and helping a leader to become a leader in true sense.

    • Ashutosh, So great to have you joining the conversation. Really good points… self-esteem is so important, and we never know what counter-forces are at play tearing it down.

  5. Karin,

    I have always tried to keep recognition going on the teams that I led in the past. I wasn’t always the best at remembering it, so I designated a team member who was really passionate about it to help me remember. A few ways that I made sure my team always knew that I appreciated them were; personal notes, team emails, nominations for bigger recognition, coaching sessions. I also agree with what Dave said above. “Bragging on them in public” I always looked for opportunities for my team to ‘overhear’ me talking them up to one of my peers or my boss. I too appreciate your direct reports and what they bring to the table!

    • Shawn, I love that idea… get someone to help you notice and remind you. That’s a post in itself. Surround yourself with people who enhance your leadership and fill in the gaps. Beautiful.

  6. Karin- coincidence is a predominant factor between what we write about. To help leaders answer the question “why I hired you”, I published four days ago a presentation dealing with this topic from a different angle. I advocated in the presentation that the main factor that prompts an employee buy a car is a proxy of his expected work profile. I gave more than fifteen analogies. May be a combination of this post and my presentation would lead to new ways of answering “why I hired you”.

    • Karin, thanks and wish you would inform us what you arrive at. Just an innocent question ‘Is your work desk messy’? My desk is messy when I write; otherwise it is almost tidy. I have strange writing habits. What was the main factor that prompted you to buy your car? Then I shall guess your profile.

  7. You’ve hit the nail on the head again with this post…so inspirational. As I think back to how I communicated with direct reports to me, I wish I had taken more time to tell them what I appreciated about them, and made it a thoughtful exercise rather than using the same, tired verbiage I’d used before. Because I tend to be a perfectionist, I never let an opportunity slip letting them know where they could have been “a bit better” for next time. At the time, pushing them to excel seemed all that was important, but now I wish I could have looked at them instead of through them….

    • LaRae, Me too…. I’m always pushing toward a higher gear… Stopping to slow down for deep recognition like this doesn’t come naturally. I think my team knows that. I need to do more.

  8. What a great idea Karin! Far too often we get caught up in the busyness of work and we forget those who make it possible. In the government or education world where there is so much red tape, rules, legislation and politics, it is easy to forget that each worker is a human being who still needs to feel appreciated and needed. I think that unions are strong because the members don’t feel like they are being heard and that they are an integral part of the “machine”. If the employees had a stake in the organization and knew they were valued and why, there might not be a need for unions to stand up for them.

    • Michelle, I agree with you…. it’s so prevelent in many organizations. People want to feel connected to, needed, and cared for. Thanks for enhancing the conversation.

  9. Hi Karin,
    Love this article! What a great idea, and whilst potentially finding it somewhat of a risk, as TS Elliot said ‘only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go’.

  10. This is awesome, Karin. Makes me totally happy to just think about the gift that you sent to each of your teammates! It is truly a great practice to appreciate people for who they are and not only what they do. Love that you not only thought it was a good idea, but took action on it too.

    I appreciate you for living your leadership!

  11. Fantastic idea. Being new to my role with this new company, I need to take advantage of this now that I am four weeks in. I have seen some of these qualities and characteristics, that need to be recognized before we just talk about opportunities. Talk about building a strong connection from the beginning. Thanks for the thoughts.

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