After being pulled from a baseball game, Mike Robbins,1 former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, said he “could’ve have used some appreciation, not for what I’ve done, but for who I am.” Appreciation is different from recognition! Recognition only acknowledges an achievement, service, or ability, while appreciation acknowledges a team member for his or her intrinsic value as well.
Appreciating someone is possible, and EVEN ENCOURAGED, during times of failure. It is tempting to ignore or withdraw support from individuals who are performing poorly. After being pulled early from a game, Mike Robbins said he would sit on the bench in total isolation. He wanted a simple word of encouragement, like “You’re not as bad as you just performed.” or “You’re an important member of this team.” He suggests that exaggeration about his performance being positive would have been disingenuous, inauthentic, and condescending.
Recognition must be individualized and authentic. In U.S. News and World Report, Maria Elena Duron writes “a one-prize-fits-all approach to appreciation isn’t as effective as many think, and only motivates for a short time before disgruntlement and other negative feelings rise to the surface.”2 In The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,3 Dr. Chapman and Dr. White offer a framework for identifying the different ways employees PREFER to receive appreciation:
- Words of Affirmation: Verbal acknowledgement of someone’s contribution or character, like “thanks for being on time” or “great comments during the meeting”; NOT overstated or embellished.
- Quality Time: Sharing your time in a way that is meaningful to the employee, like going to a kid’s soccer game, listening to a story about weekend events, or mentoring; NOT just being in the same room.
- Acts of Service: Performing extra efforts that would be appreciated, like arriving early to set up chairs or personally delivering pizza on a late night at the office; NOT rescuing or suggesting the individual is incapable.
- Tangible Gifts: Giving of material items that express a familiarity with the employee, like tickets to an anticipated sci-fi movie or a monogrammed portfolio binder; NOT what you want or something impersonal.
- Appropriate Physical Touch: Acknowledging an individual by connecting, like with a high-five, fist bump, or genuine handshake; NOT creepy– OK? Just keeping it real! Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidelines.
Of course, the standard benefits apply to sharing appreciation. Dr. White lists the following:
- People like to come to work AND be on time, reducing absenteeism and tardiness
- People want to stick around, decreasing staff turnover
- People are more committed to the work, improving customer satisfaction
What is your preferred form of receiving appreciation? How would your team(s) benefit from an individualized and authentic approach to appreciation? How does this concept refine your thoughts about responding to failure?
1 Source: The Power of Appreciation (Mike Robbins, TEDxBellevue Video, 18:06 min)
2 Source: Applying Appreciation Language in the Workplace (Maria Elena Duron, U.S. News and World Report)
3 Source: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (Dr. Gary Chapman & Dr. Paul White)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 21 years.