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Karin’s Leadership Articles

What I Appreciate About Your Leadership

What I Appreciate Most About Your Leadership

by | Sep 13, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Employee Engagement & Energy |

You Appreciate Your Team, But Do They Know Why?

What do you appreciate most about each member of your team? Have you told them? Try this simple, free and powerful best practice to encourage and recognize your team.

You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore.

A Quick “I Appreciate You” Best Practice

The other night I was talking to Joe, a leader who shared this fantastic best practice.

Every time Joe 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.

Every new employee comes to work knowing what Joe appreciates most.

Wow! a powerful way to show appreciation and boost confidence. Who wouldn’t want that sitting on their desk on a bad day? Heck, it can’t hurt on a good day either.

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 overthink 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 as I thought about all the “What ifs?”

employees ideas are not appreciated

appreciation for new ideas generates more

What if they were disappointed about the characteristics I most appreciated? I would have to be clear; this was merely my view on how their leadership was showing up– a subjective, single perspective.

What if the leader who was also struggling in some areas took this as a sign that he was off the hook for the behaviors we had been working to improve? I decided it was okay. I was working on those consistently and would do that again another day. This focus on appreciation only might be exactly what he needed.

What if they compared notes? I realized that would be FANTASTIC.

It would be great to have them talking about what they appreciated most in one another.

I also made a deliberate decision to focus on leadership behaviors without the context of accomplishments or results. For this exercise, I did not want to appreciate them for the amazing year-over-year growth. This time, it was all about how– not what.

What I Appreciate Most

The exercise became a meditation.

I felt deep appreciation and connection bubbling up. I became overwhelmed by how much I appreciated them as a collective team. It was not lost on me that what I chose to appreciate said as much about me as it did them.

I found that I appreciated the characteristics that were hardest for me and also those I value most deeply. A few excerpts from these notes…

I appreciate your:

  • high-energy, always-fascinated approach to everything you do. 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
  • deep spirituality, and commitment to your family. It shows in your day job.

Ready to accelerate team performance?

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Team Accelerator Team Development Program


Your turn.

What are your best practices for letting each team member know how you appreciate them?

Winning WellOther Resources

For more Winning Well tools and techniques, check out our book. Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul.

Check out some of our other Most Read and Shared Posts

How to Give Better, Consistent Appreciation (Another appreciation best practice from my time as a Verizon executive)

Psychological Safety: Whey Employees Don’t Speak Up at Work

Leadership Skills: 6 Leadership Competencies You Can’t Lead Without

7 Ways to Help Your Team Deal with Ambiguity

9 Questions to Help Your Team Solve Problems on Their Own

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Dave Bratcher

    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!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Dave, I am big fan of hand written notes… they always go a long way.

  2. Steve Borek

    I really really like this idea.

    From the moment they begin with your team, you’re encouraging the heart. You’re showing them you care.

    Who doesn’t want to be loved?

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, and when you’re heart feels encouraged you will take more risks… and grow…

  3. David Tumbarello

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      David, you raise two vital points. Yes, I did find myself working very deliberately to pick the right words…. and ensuring that my comments were each unique.

  4. Matt McWilliams

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, Yes! People want specifics in ongoing recogition… gee you’re great, has less of an impact 😉

  5. Ashutosh Kasera

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

  6. Shawn


    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!

    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

  7. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    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”.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, Loved this post. You’ve got me wondering what people think when they see the messy back seat of my car 😉 And… or course, what car you drive, and why?

      • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

        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.

  8. LaRae Quy

    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….

    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

  9. Michelle Spear

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

  10. Kate Tojeiro

    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’.

  11. Alli Polin

    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!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, Thanks for sharing the story of your friend that inspired all of this.

  12. Shayne Farrell

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Shayne, Great to have you joining the conversation. Ahh, yes, I do think you are in a sweet spot. 😉

  13. sheik Reshma

    I am a big fan of you karin how to become a great leader i just wanna know about that

    • Karin Hurt

      Sheik, Thank you so very much!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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