I often ask business leaders I meet when they last expressed gratitude to a colleague for their work, and the question is almost always met with some contemplation, before an answer of ‘a few weeks/months ago’.
Even managers don’t seem to realise that appreciation of staff members is greatly neglected, and that this has a detrimental effect on a company on every level.
Appreciation means emphasising individuals’ strengths in relation to their roles at work, and this must be done genuinely if your staff’s potential is to be fulfilled.
Showing genuine appreciation is also about showing that you care about not just the performance of each staff member but also about their emotional wellbeing.
When people talk about what aspects of the job are going well, their stories will often be about the challenges that they have overcome in dealing with difficult situations with other people, whether this is customers suppliers or other stakeholders.
It is a vital opportunity to empathise with their experiences and feelings, to demonstrate that leaders appreciate how challenging it is to stand in their shoes sometimes.
The traditional method of analysis in the western world is to use a ‘deficiency’ model in which our starting point is always to look for what’s wrong so that we can fix it.
However I believe we should turn this practice on its head and start with what’s working well and then ask how we can build on these strengths. When the questions being asked include ‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘what needs to be fixed?’ the obvious assumption is that something needs to be fixed.
Instead, managers need to be asking questions such as ‘What’s good about what you are currently doing?’.
Being spontaneous is also important when it comes to showing appreciation.
When leaders witness a colleague being successful, resolving a problem or helping a colleague, they should seize the moment the moment to show genuine appreciation. Simple comments such as ‘well done!’ or ‘I really appreciate what you’ve just done” can make a big difference.
Here are three reasons why showing your staff real appreciation is so important in the modern professional world:
1. The need to feel valued
It shouldn’t be surprising that people must be made to feel appreciated in the workplace if they are to achieve their best results.
This applies to every member of staff, regardless of position and qualification - they need to know that what they are doing is having a positive impact on the company.
The very best way of doing this is to give each person a little bit of one-on-one time, even if you can only afford a few minutes, to discuss their achievements and how they reached them.
Not only does this show you care and notice the performance of your staff, but will make people more likely to try hard in order to have their work recognised.
Self-confidence is a major factor in employee motivation.
Often at work, we judge ourselves more harshly than those around us and disregard the things we do well at, but recognition from a manager can not only counter this self-criticism, but highlights strengths that may never have been noticed before.
It also gives staff members that crucial acknowledgement that their contributions are helping to move the company forward. Broadening your colleagues’ self-awareness allows them to grow.
3. Secondary business impacts
By extension, this support of your staff’s confidence and abilities helps to strengthen the company as a whole.
Widespread support from the top that spreads throughout the ranks helps to create strong, trusting professional relationships, which works to encourage engagement and boosted performance.
Of course, managers can’t give every spare minute to this, but giving every employee equal attention, and the chance to hear what they have been succeeding at gives both parties valuable insight, and can certainly strengthen the internal recruiting process by gaining a clearer impression of the talent in your pool.
In conclusion, the often forgotten task of expressing appreciation to your staff is in the best interests of employees, leaders and the entire company infrastructure.
From boosting employee self-esteem to gaining insight to the masses of talent you already have within the company, the benefits are extensive, so make certain that appreciation becomes a central fixture of your business.
About Nigel Purse
Nigel founded The Oxford Group in 1987 following a career in HR and business management with the Mars Corporation and Burmah Oil (now part of BP). Nigel is passionate about developing leadership capability in leaders of all ages, and writes and speaks regularly on this subject for audiences worldwide. He is the author of ‘5 Conversations’ and leads the associated training programmes which transform trust, performance and engagement at work. Nigel’s areas of expertise include talent identification and development, leadership development and behavioural interviewing.