Appreciation: The Culture that Changes You

As I re-read the email, I could hardly believe it had been sent a month plus a few days before I lost a good friend and colleague. His death had been sudden, and the sadness of his loss has greatly impacted all of us who had the chance to know Jay. Personally, he loved life and had a tremendous sense of curiosity and wonder. Professionally, Jay was a technical wizard—solving problems no one else could, but with a humility that few of his acumen ever achieve.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this tragic event, the most important being to treasure the people in our lives and our time together. And I realized once again how important it is to be sure to let individuals around us know how much we appreciate them. Thankfully I hadn’t waited to send the brief note to let Jay know how much he had helped on a project we’d worked on all year. If I had, it would have been too late.

At LEADon, we talk with our clients about the importance of creating a Culture of Appreciation in their Corporate Family™. This type of culture creates a climate where people work most effectively because they understand they are valued at the deepest level. And showing appreciation can come in so many forms. A quick word of thanks, a simple email, or even recognition at meetings. Many times nothing monetary is involved, but we do suggest you learn to hit three specific areas when you do recognize and/or compliment someone:

  1. Offer your appreciation about something concrete that’s occurred.
  2. Be sure the compliment is character or competency-based.
  3. Efforts toward appreciation should always be consistent.

Let’s break these three aspects of showing appreciation down a bit further. For instance, if Lesley in Accounting did a great job on a recent report, then announce that specifically at your next meeting, saying something like: “Lesley, I really appreciate the thoroughness of the report you provided the Executive Team. Great job!” Notice that you’ve covered points 1 and 2 in this type of brief statement. You mentioned specifically what she’d done (concrete example) as well as how she accomplished it (competency-based). To hit point 3, it would be a good idea to recognize someone else at another upcoming meeting, highlighting what he/she had accomplished and how. To only recognize someone in Accounting again wouldn’t be as consistent as “spreading the love” to other departments and individuals.

As a leader, sometimes it’s challenging to remember to include these Culture of Appreciation moments in a hectic, day-to-day business world. We’ve recommended in many instances that leaders select someone on their team who enjoys providing this type of support and wouldn’t mind spearheading these efforts. In addition, some individuals in leadership have actually created forms to document employee appreciation—and, by doing so, can track how often and to whom these earnest efforts at recognition are given.

The most important take-away is that you do something for those people in your Sphere of Influence and show how much they mean to you, personally and professionally. Don’t let another day slip away before you reach out in this way. It will change your culture, but this process will also change you!