People Management

Recipes for helping people grow wings – the power of appreciation

Photo by Bradley Howington on Unsplash

Every human wants to feel appreciated. And every person that cares for you, wants to see you grow. On the opposite end, people that don’t want you to evolve, try to keep you small.

After over five years of people management, I’ve seen countless times the power of good words, public recognition and expression of gratitude. I also know it is fair and part of true leadership to remove those that refuse to perform (which is completely different from being unable to perform) or those that create an unpleasant / conflicting environment for the rest of the team. I’ve seen in my personal life as well, how positive support and expressed trust in someone’s abilities, can help grow wings on some people and it’s one of the most beautiful gifts you can offer.

Psychological studies have proven that in order to enforce a positive behaviour, the key is to praise the behaviour you like, exhibited in a third party, instead of criticizing the bits and pieces you don’t like. It works with kids too. Besides, you can forget the idea that You, from the outside, will ever be able to truly change someone, because true transformation comes only from within. Sometimes positively driven, but more often by shock (an experience with a considerable negative emotional impact).

The beautiful thing I’ve observed in time is that no matter your role, but of course much easier if you’re leading a team, you can create a culture of recognition and appreciation around you. It’s something that makes people feel good and we all want that.

Ok, so what do you do?

  • Use words over writing. Yes, in writing it stays, it’s a proof. Right. But you know what people remember? How you made them feel. Use words, because only confident people can say out loud what they feel.
  • Say it in public, not in private. Does the tree that falls in the woods, make any noise if there’s no one to hear it? Public praise makes people blush sometimes, but deep down it feels good. It also helps you spot those that become envious.
  • Offer a token of recognition. That’s why we like trophies and diplomas. My favourite diploma isn’t an academic achievement, but a piece of paper I received from WWF for supporting them, that says “A friend of nature” – I’ve thrown away in the recycle bin diplomas from courses, but kept this one. It can be something much simpler and potentially worthless as an everyday item. Check out the “Hero of the Sprint” method, I’ve described here.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t boast in a speech that is unlikely to be credible and would make people feel uncomfortable. A simple “Bravo” or “Well done” said at the right time, in a loud voice, in public, can do wonders.
  • Tell a story, because people love stories. It works in marketing, as well as in our private lives. Mankind has been telling stories around campfires for thousands of years, so it became imprinted in our DNA. When you want to present to others how your team mate or buddy nailed it, don’t expedite it: “This guy nailed the answer!”. Come on, you can do better, make it a story!

Nobody wants to feel unworthy. We’ve got that covered by toxic people. Always avoid people that tell you that you can’t do it or you’re not able to – because if you hear that too often, you’ll start believing it and it’s a lie. Avoid people that tell you that you’re going to fail if you try – no you won’t fail. Worst case you’ll learn how not to do it.

If not for others, do it for yourself. Expressing appreciation and gratitude, develops your emotional intelligence. Plus, people will remember you, because not many informal leaders behave this way. Give them positive reasons to remember you. Don’t you want to be legendary? 🙂

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