How to Give Better, Consistent Appreciation

How to Give Better, Consistent Appreciation

I try to give my team consistent appreciation. I always go out of my way to say thank you. But you know what? In two years, I’ve never received a single thank you from my boss. NOT ONE. I get that this is my job. But come on! I’ve led some big turnarounds here and made a real impact.

– “John,” Manufacturing Executive

Sadly, John is not alone. We’ve heard that lament so many times before.

Employees in every role long to be seen and know that you know they are making a difference.

When we ask these underappreciated “Johns” what kind of acknowledgment they most yearn for, the answer is radically simple:

“I just want a @#%@!% thank you.”

3 Ways to Get Better at Appreciation

If you’re reading this and think, “Yikes, that could be me” or “I probably don’t do enough” you’re not alone.  You might want to try these simple approaches to build a more deliberate appreciation strategy.

1. Involve your team.

When Karin was an HR Director at Verizon, her boss Gail had a brilliant approach to appreciation.

Each week on our staff calls she invited us to nominate someone in another department who had “saved the day” in a big way.

Maybe it was Tom in IT who rallied his team to get a project done in Herculean time. Or, Brian on the HR help desk who spent hours resolving an employee benefits issue.

She ordered mighty mouse statues with custom name plaques. Then, when we were together in our Manhattan headquarters for our staff meeting, we would take a break and all six of us would tromp around the building disrupting meetings and bursting into song, “Here you came to save the day,” as we excitedly handed them their mouse.

This ritual did all the things.

First, it had us on the constant lookout for people to appreciate. I know that focus upped my awareness which led to more informal “thank yous” than I might normally have remembered to do.

Second, we became known as a team that truly appreciated other departments. Which of course made them more eager to help us. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore.

Third, it had a remarkable teambuilding effect as we sang and laughed and ran around the building—in a world where we spent most of our lives in executive meetings conscious of our executive presence, this was a welcome relief and a reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.

And finally, we were role modeling what we wanted more of in the organization. An HR commercial per se of the positive impact of more appreciation in the culture.

In our final staff meeting before Gail retired, she gave each of us our own mighty mouse statue and shared specifically why she appreciated each of us. Not a dry eye in the room.

I still have my meaningful, mighty mouse displayed on my bookshelf.

Or Keep It Simple

Of course,  it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as statues and songs.

We have a senior leader client who has upped his appreciation game by asking each member of his team to give him two people to appreciate each week. Then, he carves out an hour every Friday to make appreciation phone calls and send thank you emails.

He shared:

When I reach out to provide appreciation, I’m very deliberate about who told me about the good thing we appreciate. The appreciation is really coming from the person who lifted it up, and I’m just the conduit.  I also think doing it on a Friday has a nice impact, so they head into the weekend feeling good.

2. Make a weekly plan.

Another approach to better and more consistent appreciation is to make a weekly plan.

When we find managers in our leadership training programs that wrestle with consistent appreciation, we share this simple tool.

Note: you can download this fillable PDF Appreciation Planner here.

Each week, you can think about three people that you could appreciate. They could be peers, direct reports, even your boss. Then, you make a plan for why you are grateful for their contribution and how you could appreciate them in a meaningful way.

If you save the plan each week, you can ensure you’re spreading your acknowledgment around and not inadvertently overlooking anyone.

3. Leverage the element of surprise.

The other day, we had a virtual coffee meeting scheduled with one of our clients. The doorbell rang. There was a delivery of a wonderful box of fancy pastries followed by some beautiful flowers along with this sentiment …

Well, if you had been here with me in Seattle, I would surely have bought you a cup of coffee to thank you for all the work you’ve been doing with us on Courageous Cultures.

We so appreciated the appreciation!

Your Turn:

We’d love to hear your best practices. How do you ensure your appreciation is having an impact?

See also: How to get great at recognition event if it’s not in your DNA.