Last night I was in a Dale Carnegie training session where participants had to provide a report on how they’d used one of the Leadership principles over the past week. One participant took a different approach to this assignment and provided a report on how someone used the Leadership Principle on him and on how its effect was amazing.
He described how he had recently completed a difficult job that took 14 hours in one day and that a co-worker had taken the time to write an email to his manager commenting on how hard he had worked and had made that day a very enjoyable one. The participant also described how another colleague had provided similar praise verbally just a few days later. If only you could have seen the “glow” on this participant’s face as he told this story. He was so taken aback by the feedback he actually commented “it made his year.”
The Leadership Principle this participant illustrated is Begin with Praise and Honest Appreciation.
I spoke with the participant after the session and asked him: “What was it about the comments that made you feel so good?” He described to me that he had never had someone take the time to send positive feedback to his manager, but that there was more to it than that. It was simply the fact that the feedback was positive, specific and meaningful. He said it was just good to know that the hard work he was putting in was being recognized. He commented similarly about the in-person feedback that he had received.
This is just one example of the impact recognition can have on employees, and while you may think this is an isolated experience, I can assure you it is not. So why is it that so many employees still go without it and feel under-valued and under-appreciated?
While what follows is not a formal study, I sure have asked the question above enough times throughout my career to feel I’m qualified to comment. Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard why recognition isn’t so common:
1. I don’t need to provide recognition, they already know what I think of them!
How many times have I heard Leaders describe to me the following: “If I had a problem with them they would know it.” Or “They know how I feel about them so there’s no need for me to tell them.” This is exactly the problem. How self-absorbed are we as Leaders to think that we know how people feel as opposed to actually considering how they take in the experience?
2. I don’t need to, they’re just doing their job
Seriously? Even if that were true, wouldn’t you want to receive some recognition for doing a good job every now and then? And, if you truly listened to your employees, couldn’t it go beyond just doing their job? Couldn’t it go towards something you’ve noticed about them that you want to comment on: “Sally, I’ve noticed recently that you seem to be really excited about this project you’re working on”? I’ve said nothing about her performance and yet, the appreciation is equally as impactful.
3. Don’t have time
A colleague of mine has a great quote about not having enough time. He says: “You have all the time there is!” What you’re really saying here isn’t that you don’t have enough time, what you’re saying is that this is not a priority for you. I encourage you to think about the message that this sends to your employees.
4. It comes across as insincere, which really means I’m uncomfortable with it
If your appreciation is sincere and genuine, it should come across that way. If it comes across as rehearsed or contrived it won’t be received the way you want – which likely leads to your discomfort. If you show appreciation because you want to as opposed to some sort of due, people will feel the difference.
I can’t make you change your approach to providing, or not providing, praise and appreciation. What I can do is share with you the success I have had and witnessed with other Leaders who make praise and appreciation a priority. Showing genuine praise and honest appreciation to your employees is self-reinforcing. When you do a better job at providing praise and appreciation, your employees will tend to step up to the plate and want to do more for you. Spend less time looking for what people do wrong and more time praising and appreciating what they do right and you’ll get the results you want from your team.
Oh, and one last thought. In an age where we all focus on budgets, cost containment, and expense management, why wouldn’t you want to put a practice in place that can positively impact your bottom line and costs you nothing?