How the little things affect performance
By ROSHAN THIRAN
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
What lies behind great results in a team?
That’s a question that has popped into my mind a few times. Maybe it’s incentives: reach this target and we’ll give you this reward. Or perhaps it’s perks – as a thank you for your hard work, here’s a free gym membership for the year.
It could even be offering some free rein – we know you can do your job well and you get great results, so we’ll let you find the best ways to keep delivering those great results.
These factors (and many others) often come together to drive people to do amazing things. On reflection, I couldn’t help but feel that some of these factors can be somewhat superficial and, although they can certainly benefit business and team morale over the short term, superficial incentives can lose their flavour pretty quickly.
I’ve long been obsessed by how people interact with others, how leaders get the best out of people, how colleagues work to pull in the same direction; how
partners influence each other in the decision-making process, and so on.
When you think about working together to achieve results, everything comes down to relationships, and everything rises and falls on their effectiveness, and the strength of their bonds.
I remember on one occasion talking to a young human resources (HR) professional who had an expression of delight plastered across his face.
He had just completed a substantial project, and this young man was busy telling me that he had the best boss ever.
“Wow, that’s quite an accolade,” I replied.
“I take it he gave you some fantastic reward – a smart watch, a new laptop, or a few days’ extra leave?”
Without breaking his joyful demeanour, he said, “No, he came to see me and thanked me for having done a great job, and that he really appreciated my efforts. He knows I’m a big movie fan, and said that the next big movie I wanted to go and see, two tickets were on him. It’s great to have your work noticed and appreciated like that.”
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This encounter left a huge impression on me. Most leaders will know the value of appreciation, but to see its effect drives home the importance of offering praise whenever it’s due.
How often do we get caught up in expectations, though? How many times can we be guilty of taking the efforts of others for granted, so that even the miraculous starts to appear common to us after a while?
The joy on the face of that young professional wouldn’t have been there had his boss handed him a watch, or told him he could have a few extra days of leave. The expression of joy was there because his boss knew the wisdom behind sincere appreciation: his thank you was a gift greater than any other offering.
Sure, he backed it up with a tangible reward of movie tickets (a kind gesture that heightened the appreciation), but the most valuable thing he gave to his team member was a feeling of being truly valued and respected.
Recommended reading: 4 Things That Make Employees Stay Longer In A Company
I’ve known some leaders (though thankfully few) who view such appreciation as “pampering” team members. It’s as though showing appreciation is some kind of weakness, or they understand that it’s something to be done every day without cause, and so loses its impact.
But let’s ask ourselves: who among us doesn’t like to feel valued, or to hear that we’ve done a good job? Sincere, effective appreciation is about giving someone
recognition when it’s deserved.
While everyone will have their own idea of when such appreciation is deserved, there’s little doubt that when it’s done right, it has an enormous effect on the recipient, who in turn becomes even more engaged in their work, and doubles down on their commitment to the organisation and its goals.
Engagement and results
“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Within some traditional views, it’s held that people “should be grateful that they have a job to begin with”, and that that should be enough to inspire engagement and produce results. But this is outmoded thinking.
I was reflecting on my own leadership roles throughout the years, and it struck me that I’m just one person. (“Gee, Roshan, how long did that insight take?”) An obvious statement, maybe, but think about it.
While leaders work to engage, connect, inspire and direct others towards achieving goals and objectives, nothing would be achieved without those people who are working flat out to manifest those objectives.
Therefore, maybe it’s the leaders who should be grateful that they have good people to begin with. The most effective leaders are grateful for their people, and are happy to show it whenever the opportunity arises.
How simple it is to offer a sincere thank you to someone; and how great an effect those two simple words have on morale. Rather than just offering rewards from outside ourselves, there is so much power in offering a gesture of appreciation that comes from within ourselves.
Anyone can hand a gift to someone, but when there’s authenticity behind the sentiments we express to others, they can lift people higher than any external incentive. Why? Because most people come to work for a company and a mission that they believe in, and when their company (i.e. their leader) returns that same belief in its people, magical things can happen.
Goals can be exceeded, innovations can arise, and everyone can become so highly engaged that they will work to give their all in helping to take their organisation to the next level.
The need to appreciate
“Those who have the ability to be grateful are the ones who have the ability to achieve greatness.” – Steve Maraboli
It is my view that showing an appreciation of others provides so many benefits to all concerned.
Conversely, a lack of sincere appreciation can cause problems across the board. If leaders don’t
appreciate their people, how can they expect their people to appreciate them?
This might interest you: Appreciation Works
In an increasingly competitive world, skilled employees can find work anywhere: the deciding factor on whether a person stays or leaves a company is the environment – are they “just another cog in the wheel” or someone who truly adds value to the team?
If they are the former, perhaps the question of why they were hired in the first place needs to be asked. If they are someone who adds value but doesn’t know it, then a simpler question needs to be asked – why don’t they know it?
In most (if not all) of our interactions and relationships, we can start to take others for granted in fairly quick time and with worrying ease. As the saying goes, we get out whatever we put in, and this is arguably most apt when it comes to our professional relationships.
As leaders, we have a duty to show our appreciation whenever it’s merited (which is more often than we think). If we don’t show our appreciation to those who deliver consistently good results (this also goes for people who show improvements), the reality is that, sooner or later, another leader will be happy to do so.
Article first appeared on LinkedIn.