Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, famously used hand-written thank you notes as an easy, high-impact way of showing his appreciation for team members’ hard work or good results. Many executives have followed his example for the simple reason that his method works.
But it’s one thing to show your appreciation for what someone has done for you, and quite another to appreciate them for who they are. If you really want to have a big impact on the morale of the people around you and the quality of your connection with them, try this equally simple method:
- Pick someone to whom you want to show your appreciation, and think about some aspect of who they are — a character trait that you really admire or appreciate. This could be their positive outlook, or sense of humour, or ability to keep calm under fire.
- Express your appreciation in person. Perhaps as you are wishing them a good Christmas break, say something like “Larissa, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your ability to stay maintain a positive outlook even when there are fires burning.” The message should be genuine, specific, and succinct. Avoid giving examples or going into longer explanations: keep it short and sweet.
- Try not to offer appreciation for something they have done (“I appreciate the hard work you put in on project X”). It’s good to thank people for their work but it’s much more powerful to show your appreciation for who they are as a person.
- Maintain eye contact with the person while you are offering your appreciation.
In my Team Coaching workshops I encourage participants to express their appreciation for each other, and it consistently results in higher levels of trust and social capital. The fact is that receiving appreciation is uplifting. For the recipient, it is recognition that they matter and that they are seen, understood and appreciated as individuals. The positive energy this creates can be highly contagious. And at an even more basic level, it makes people feel safe, which frees them to do their best work.
Interestingly, brain research has shown that not only does the brain of the person receiving appreciation ‘light up’ (as you might expect), but, also, the brain of the person giving the appreciation lights up as well. Appreciation is good for everyone.
But giving appreciation doe not always come easily. For some people, expressing appreciation can be awkward or uncomfortable. It may help therefore to think of appreciation like this:
Appreciation is simply recognizing and acknowledging the good qualities of someone or something.
And know that giving appreciation gets much easier with a bit of practice.
For those of you who are on the receiving end of a message of appreciation, remember that only thing you need to say is: