Not all Thank You’s are created equal

I’ve recently been asked by several clients to deliver presentations to their organizations on the power of appreciation. It appears that companies are starting to realize more and more that a little appreciation can help to engage, RECOGNIZE, and encourage employees to perform better on the job. So, I’ve been teaching these organizations that the recognition of others must be a viable and consistent strategy incorporated by everyone – starting at the very top of the organizational ladder.

Why is appreciation so powerful? It’s due to the very simple and universal fact that every human being — appreciation can make a day even change a life copy[1]whether we are striving as an individual or as part of a team — wants to matter. It’s that simple. And it’s true regardless of generational, cultural, and socio-economical differences. People want to matter at home and at work, and appreciation is how we communicate this important fact of recognition.

If you’ve ever seen the television series Undercover Boss, you would know that at the end of almost every episode, at least one employee says, with tears in his eyes, “I’m so happy to be finally recognized.” Such statements sadden me because appreciation is such a powerful and easy way to recognize others. Yet, small acts of recognition are very under-utilized.

The power of appreciation begins with a simple thank you. However, not all Thank You’s are created equal. Following are some tips to put real meaning back into your appreciation of others.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Be specific – link specific behavior with the value or goal you want to promote. For example, if you want to promote teamwork, you could say, “Thank you, Bob, for helping Ann yesterday afternoon with her project. That’s exactly what we mean when we talk about teamwork.” Instead of being vague like, “Thanks, Bob. You’re great!”
  2. Be timely – you should recognize and deliver praise (appreciation) within 24 hours of noticing specific behavior. The longer you delay, the faster your appreciation loses its impact. Studies have shown that employees need and want recognition every seven days.
  3. Be public – deliver your praise (appreciation) in public in order to effectively promote desired behaviors. Some of your employees may “claim” not to like public recognition. However, if it’s delivered specifically and is brief, its impact can be monumental. AND it communicates to your other employees that certain behaviors will result in favorable recognition.
  4. Be consistent – Don’t just focus on the superstars. Even your middle performers are doing something worthy of recognition and appreciation. So take the time to recognize everyone.

Remember: Employees want to matter, so it’s our job to use the power of appreciation to make sure our team members know it and feel it.

When was the last time someone in your organization showed you appreciation that made you feel like you mattered? When was the last time YOU showed appreciation of others? Please share your comments below. I look forward to engaging with you and your comments. (Next week, I’ll discuss common reasons leaders do NOT recognize their employees and what to do about it.)

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