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Valentine’s Day has come and gone but how much love is in the air all year round in the workplace when it comes to appreciating those around us? Not enough usually!

Every human being has a fundamental need to feel valued. Feeling that we have value goes part way to building a sense of purpose in life. Without a purpose, it’s very difficult to find motivation. It’s certainly hard to be engaged in anything if we don’t feel valued by those around us. As a leader or manager, if you behave in a way that values others, you’ll unlock amazing engagement and performance levels and people will do things you never imagined possible.

Here’s how to value those around you in a way that really drives business performance:

Make it personal
You can make a thank you personal in so many different ways. For some leaders, it’s a handwritten letter or card, for others it’s an impromptu drop-in into a regular team meeting to thank someone in person, for others it’s a gift chosen specifically for a certain individual. However you say thank you, make it personal and sincere.

Face to face
It’s quite easy, (albeit great practise!), to drop someone an email to say thanks for a job well done but it takes on a whole new meaning if you’re able to actually go and find that individual and deliver your thanks in person.

Horses for courses
Different types of personalities like different types of appreciation. Some love a public thank you in the team meeting, others will value a private demonstration of appreciation much more. Get to know your people and the sort of appreciation they will love.

Appreciation readiness
I knew someone senior in the police force who had cards printed with his name on and would carry a stash around with him ready to write them with his fountain pen and give out to people there and then if he saw/heard they had done a great job. Being ready to show appreciation can make it much easier to deliver.

Scratch below the surface
It’s relatively easy to say ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ but they’re wasted words if the recipient doesn’t feel there is much understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes. If you’re saying thank you for a job well done, explain why you believe it was such a good job and what the impact on others has been.

Appreciate the bigger picture
When we’re caught up in business priorities and what needs to get done, it’s easy to forget the wider impact of working life, especially at times when going above and beyond is required. Appreciate not only the effort your people make but the impact on their wider lives and recognise it appropriately.

Celebrate success
I know a leader who likes to surprise employees with a celebratory party style thank you on a Friday afternoon. He walks through the open plan office, with a loudspeaker in hand announcing the achievements of a certain employee and the key actions that had led to success. He then welcomes everyone to join him in a round of applause for that person. If a public thank you is appropriate, these fun techniques can go down a storm. 

Recognise effort ahead of constructive critique
Appreciation is a key part of delivering successful critique. So often, employees have invested huge amounts of effort and energy into something, only to feel utterly deflated when the immediate feedback is critical. Ahead of challenging or critiquing work, always acknowledge the effort that has already gone into it.

Create a two way dialogue
As a leader, when you see that an individual has done something it’s great to find them and congratulate them personally by saying ‘well done’ but what adds even more impact is also inquiring about what has helped them make it happen. It shows you’re genuinely interested, really understand the gravitas of what has been delivered and want to know how it might be replicated.

Circle back to appreciate success
Things move on so quickly in business, it’s easy to forget to check back in on the individuals behind the success of a certain project or initiative. Always take time to revisit the actual human beings that delivered something successfully to honour their achievements, recognise their efforts and show interest in what can be learned or transferred for future projects.

Top up your own tank!
As well as being on the receiving end, let’s not forget how it makes you feel as a person when you appreciate others. Appreciating others is a great way to feel good yourself and top up your own tank of positivity, energy and serotonin.  If you sit and write a letter to someone to appreciate them it feels like a very positive thing to do and thus also has an impact on your own personal resilience. Appreciation is a leadership behaviour that will make you feel great, as well as those around you.

The act of appreciation is a big untapped opportunity in business today. Human nature means that we are motivated by so much more than status and pay grade and as a leader, remembering this is vital.

As HR Directors, we are usually much more aware of the need to make daily, personal appreciation of those around us a daily habit – but many of our peers, the other leaders who work around us, aren’t so aware and are often amazed at the results!

Jane Sparrow is a culture expert and one of the founding partners of The Culture Builders

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