What will you do with those opportunities?
Will you say the obligatory words and make the expected gestures – a business as usual approach to appreciation? Or will you take these opportunities to stretch yourself to truly make a difference through your appreciation?
Appreciation has two very important purposes – to let someone know you care and to let them know they matter.
With these two objectives in mind consider how you can transform your practice of appreciation from “business as usual” to acts of generosity and leadership.
Here is my “recipe” for appreciating people in a way that will enrich both you and them. The ingredients are Action, Quality and Impact. Stir them all together with heart and authenticity and be prepared to be inspired.
What did someone do that stood out for you as a special and distinct expression of this individual? And be specific – specific to the individual or team. If it sounds like your appreciation could apply to a lot of people or any great team then you will know specificity is missing.
For example, thank you for your hard work may be a start, but if that is where you stop you are missing the point. Anyone can work hard and a lot of people do. Consider what they specifically worked hard at that sets them apart from others who may have worked just as hard.
Challenge yourself to look past the default sentiments that can too easily sound like a generic hallmark card. For example, in the face of daunting circumstance (e.g., your power was out for four days from a hurricane) you somehow met every deadline and delivered the project on time.
It is not just what people do, it is often how they do it that can have them stand out and give you something distinctive to appreciate about them.
2 people can do the same job, yet one person may stand out because of who they are being in the process of doing that job. For example, they were calm no matter how crazy things got, they were willing to learn beyond their comfort zone, they were particularly compassionate and supportive of their colleagues, etc.
Think about the adjectives you would use to uniquely describe how they do what they do (or did what they did). For example, my Aunt baked us a cheesecake for Thanksgiving because she can’t be with us this year for our holiday dinner. We could stop at “thank you so much for the wonderful cake”. Or we could add something like: thank you for always being there even when you can’t be with us; or you know we love your cheesecakes, but most of all we really appreciate the love and care you put into everything you make for us.
Taking your appreciation to this next step not only has someone feel appreciated for their actions, but also has them feel known for who they are.
Every action and every quality or way of being has an impact on us and on others. If you really want people to feel appreciated and known then you can take your appreciation to another level by naming the impact their actions had for you and others, including the impact of who they were being in the process of taking action.
This is one of the best ways to show people that they are actually demonstrating leadership through their everyday actions. Every time someone does something that impacts others in a forwarding and contributing way consider they have committed an act of leadership.
To build on the last example of my aunt’s cake, we might add something like thank you for finding a way to be there even when you cannot be with us. You will be missed.
Here is another example building on “in the face of daunting circumstance you somehow met every deadline and delivered the project on time.” You might add something like “no matter how crazy things get, we always know we can count on you” or “Somehow you always remain calm and that helps to keep the rest of the team focused and on track.”
My challenge to you between now and the end of the year: go one step further in every expression of appreciation and make sure the people in your life are left knowing just much you care and how much they matter.