Appreciation: The most underutilized tool in most managers' toolkit
Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut and was the commander of the international space station before he retired in 2013. Before going to space, Chris and other five members were trained for 12 years. While they learned several technical skills and became proficient, it was one simple practice they learned in space that ensured their productivity for six months. The reason for their success wasn’t the written rules, but it was the one unwritten rule as per which every astronaut had to perform one random act of kindness for every other astronaut every day. And when these kind gestures were further acknowledged and appreciated a positive culture was developed which ensured harmony and six productive months.
Chester Elton, Bestselling Business Author, Organizational Culture, Employee Engagement and Teamwork Expert gave this example in his keynote in the Total Rewards and Wellness Conclave organized by People Matters and highlighted the importance of simple gestures that can create a huge impact.
The power of thank you and the magic of appreciation are not leveraged enough by most managers. 'Appreciation' is the most underutilized tool in managers toolkit. Leaders must remember that while being technically proficient is essential for them, an understanding of the soft skills is what differentiates an extraordinary leader from a good leader. And the art of appreciation can be one of the hardest soft skills to practice. To understand the skill of appreciation and for getting the most benefit out of it, here are few things every leader and manager should remember:
Prompt Appreciation and Recognition
The basic fundamental of appreciation is the time at which it is delivered. How close or far is it from the win determines the effectiveness of the appreciation. When somebody does something important, and it is immediately recognized a message is sent to the employee. This message has the maximum value. By acknowledging and appreciating the action or the behavior of the person simultaneously the probability of the person repeating this behavior increases. In Chester’s words ‘Rewarded behavior gets repeated. The closer the recognition rewarding the behavior the more it is repeated.’ This can be better understood with the example of American football and the famous Gatorade Bath. When a team wins the game, all the players drench their coach with Gatorade. It is a symbol of victory, and the coach loves it because he experiences a sense of achievement. As winners in sports are given medals and trophies right away after the win, similarly employees must also be recognized forthwith. Waiting for the end of the week, month or year makes less sense, and the behavior that the leader wishes to enforce loses its charm over time.
The appreciation must be specific, and the behavior or action which is being recognized should be clearly communicated. When you tell someone exactly what they did, it is more likely that they do it again. The timeliness of recognition guarantees the repetition and the specificity ensures replication.
The purpose of recognition must go beyond the formality of appreciating your employees. It shouldn’t just be part of the policy or an obligation. It is not a task in your to do to list to be completed. Appreciation has to be spontaneous and genuine. Recognizing your employees with just a simple 'thank you' has to be inculcated as a habit.
You want to make your day a little better go appreciate somebody else. Do it now. Do it often. Be specific. Be sincere. Be the extraordinary leaders and use the most underutilized tool in your toolkit; Thank You. You don’t know what your employees come from but here’s what you do know; the time they spent with you can be the best 8 hours of their day. Make them believe that they matter and are valued. And when they make a difference take out some time and say 'thank you'.