I actually thought the leader I was coaching was exaggerating when he said “I’d be happy to forgo an amount of my salary for a pat on the back”.
But then, a couple of days later, another leader disclosed that he still feels thrilled when he remembers a time, many years ago, when his boss acknowledged his work and his value—and that he hasn’t felt appreciated by a boss since!
These Two Comments Got Me Thinking
I began to wonder how many leaders are neglecting the seriously important, kind and productive activity of regularly acknowledging the work and the efforts of their team members…
I absolutely know that many leaders are impressive when it comes to acknowledging their team members efforts and in having them feel valued—AND I want you to be sure that you’re one of them.
The advantages of doing so are good for your team member, good for you, and good for business…
The Importance of An Acknowledgement
Expressing appreciation and thanks such that your team member feels acknowledged and highly regarded has plenty of upsides. They are:
- It’s motivational
Employee surveys have frequently established that “pats on the back” are more motivational than pay rises (Graham and Unruh, 1990).
- It’s a feedback mechanism
Putting “what’s working” on the table increases its recurrence, for sure.
- It generates discretionary effort
It’s amazing how the going-the-extra-mile effort kicks in when the boss gives regular recognition and praise.
- It’s big-hearted
Every human being on the planet wants to feel valued and respected. It’s big-hearted, kind and considerate to help people meet their needs, isn’t it?
- It grows rapport and trust
Authentically recognising that your team member has done well will naturally have them feeling warmer toward you. The increased intimacy increases rapport and trust, characteristics that are clearly important in a leader-team member relationship.
Recognition and validation for what we’ve done, or for who we are, simply put, feels good—even to those who don’t look like they’d lap up this sort of validation.
In short, being acknowledged helps us feel special!
The Best Way To Acknowledge
Typically when a person is acknowledged they glow internally.
In fact the Graham and Unruh 1990 study revealed that the following four actions were in the top five of 65 possible incentives:
- A congratulatory note from the boss.
- Verbal congratulations from the boss.
- Public recognition of a job well done.
- A morale-building chat with the boss.
Isn’t it interesting that none of these actions are a big ask? And they don’t have a monetary cost either.
Is Your Team Member’s Reference Point External Or Internal?
There’s something else you need to consider if you’re to give your acknowledgements extra legs:
- Some people are “externally referenced”. They know they’re doing a good job when someone tells them that they’re doing a good job.
- Others are “internally referenced”. They measure their success by their own criteria. They don’t really need an external reference to know how well they’ve done.
But regardless of whether your team member’s reference point is external or internal, they’ll respond well to your pat on the back. It’s just that some of them might not make the need obvious.
You’ll therefore need to look closely at some team member’s faces to know that they appreciated the validation..
Your Leadership Call To Action
Are you up for an “acknowledgement audit”?
Think about each of your team members—and recall the last time you:
- Said something positive to them about their work, their behaviour or their practices.
- Publically recognised them.
- Sent them a congratulatory email or note.
Was it last week? Last month? In the last quarter? In the last year?
Are you one of the leaders who’s impressive when it comes to acknowledging your team members—or is there room for you to up your effort in this regard?
Remember, it’ll be good for your team members, good for you and good for business .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.