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8 Appreciation Tips for Leaders in All Settings

This is a time of year when gratitude comes into focus - and it's a best practice to put into play this week because appreciation offers a win-win proposition for everyone. Here's why.

Win #1: Appreciation boosts performance and fosters trust.

Research consistently indicates that people want and need to be appreciated. Feeling appreciated reinforces our value, makes us feel safe and offers a strong motivator to the people with whom we interact. Showing appreciation gives us an opportunity to boost someone else’s confidence and productivity. And motivation research consistently demonstrates that when people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity and engagement—improves. A number of studies have also related appreciation to trust. David Maister and his colleagues in their book The Trusted Advisor argue that showing appreciation is one way to form trusting relationships.

Win #2: Appreciation is good for everybody.

Whether you are the giver or the receiver, appreciation has its benefits.

For the recipients, the results are simple and direct. Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro in their book Beyond Reason state the bottom line: “If unappreciated, we feel worse. If properly appreciated, we feel better.”

For the giver, there are also benefits. In his forthcoming book on workplace giving, renowned organizational psychology and workplace dynamics expert Adam Grant offers a compelling argument that there are tangible benefits of giving at work. This study of “prosocial motivation” (i.e., the desire to help others) is growing in momentum.

And if you like to give, I have great news for you.

Givers also exhibit positive attributes. Results of a global study outlined in the book The Carrot Principle, indicate that people who are good at recognizing others are also better goal-setters, better communicators and are more trustworthy. HealthStream Research has indicated that it is statistically impossible to be these things without using praise and recognition.

The bottom line: showing appreciation is a tangible and impactful way to foster your own and others “upward spiral” toward positivity and happiness (see Barbara Fredrickson’s groundbreaking research in her book Positivity). It reflects well on everyone.


Who is it that you would like to appreciate today?

Who is the person who least expects it?

Fill in the thanks:__________________________________________


So, how do we make appreciation count?

Here are eight quick tips for offering impactful appreciation.

  1. Appreciate at all levels. Appreciation is not a hierarchical concept – it can and should be offered regardless of status. Offer appreciation in all directions – upward, downward and lateral. Others will notice and will only reflect positively on you.

  2. Keep it simple. A simple "thank you" goes a long way; it shows appreciation for others’ hard work and contributions. Although I am outlining some valuable and specific ideas in this article, there is a lot to be said for this clear and simple take-a-way: just say thank you.

  3. Notice what others are doing right. Expectations research has found that mistakes naturally jump out at us – and that “doing something right” is not as easily noticed. What’s gone well this week? What are some team and individual successes? Tell the person or team that you noticed.

  4. Be authentic. Make sure appreciation is rooted in truth. Appreciation is best when it comes from the heart. Show appreciation with a gesture, an expression, a word or a tone of voice. The most powerful messages are delivered in your way. Authenticity is key.

  5. Be specific. Like others forms of feedback, effective appreciation should be frequent, specific and timely. Beyond Reason outlines three areas for offering appreciation: finding merit in what another person thinks (their logic and reasoning), their point of view (emotions and core concerns), and what they do (their actions and effort). You might notice a unique characteristic or quality that another person has. You may describe what they said or did that made a difference. When applying this criteria, a comment of “Great job” becomes “Your presentation was really well thought out and well delivered,” “You put a lot of heart and soul into your work,” or “I value the way your clear thinking brings things into focus at meetings.”

  6. Establish an “Appreciation Day” each week/month. Make appreciation an intentional and regular practice. Set aside one day each week/month to be mindful of giving appreciation to your colleagues. Giving to others in this way may even yield health benefits. Adam Grant’s research in Give and Take notes there may be a benefit to “exercising your giving muscle” and actually suggests setting aside one day to intentionally engage in this sort of practice.

  7. Consider self- appreciation. If you are like most people, chances are that you offer appreciation to others before offering it to yourself. As a matter of habit, we tend to review the things that didn’t get done instead of taking inventory of what we DID get done. Here’s a suggestion. Before you leave work today, make a list of 5 things that you did well or accomplished. (Be sure to include things like spending time listening to a co-worker – it may be the reason you didn’t hit some of the items on your “to do” list but it was one of the reasons you made a real difference today.)

  8. Start an "Appreciation Movement" at work! Forward this article to your coworkers or committee members, suggest a start date/time and suggest that everyone be more intentional about appreciation. Start the momentum by thanking the people with whom you work. At the very least, it will make you all smile which is part of the upward spiral!

Appreciation is something we can ALL do. And it has benefits for the giver and the receiver.

Thank someone today. It’s a win-win proposition.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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