The Power Of Appreciation
One of the deepest cravings that people have, is to be appreciated. It is no different in the corporate world. If you observe high performing cohesive teams, you will find that they instil superlative performance through appreciation rather than discourage negative behaviour through criticism.
Many of us are conditioned to notice anything that is not OK and point it out. However, when it comes to sharing what you found was appreciable the natural response is to ignore it.
The typical corporate environment encourages compliance and frowns upon risk-taking behaviour. Over time when people continue to do what they are required to do with no acknowledgement or appreciation whatsoever, their enthusiasm levels tend to go down. This is where the power of appreciation comes in.
Appreciation is more of a mindset than anything else. It costs nothing. But, you need to have a mindset that enables you to identify something worth appreciating in people you interact with. More importantly, it must be grounded in reality and be hundred percent genuine.
So, why is appreciation so important?
1. Appreciation fosters relationships
The world’s longest study of people done over a period of 75 years has thrown up some startling revelations on the importance of relationships. This study has been featured in a Ted Talk. Here is the link below.
One of the fundamental tenets of relationships is that you must find the other person worthy of building a relationship with. In a work environment reasons may emerge from business necessities, such as the need to establish a working relationship with a client or customer. Even in such cases do remember that if the need is one sided the customer or client may not consider you worthy of establishing a relationship with.
When you cultivate a mindset of appreciation you tend to look for good things in other people. In doing so and conveying it to them you not only make them happy but also enable them to see you in a positive light. This goes a long way in building relationships that are then not just confined to work.
2. It tells people that you value them as a person
Quite often people in positions of authority are used to being praised, sometimes falsely and get wary of people who indulge in this behaviour. However, when you appreciate something genuinely about such people the kind of relationship you build goes beyond the walls of your office.
Very early in my life, I learnt from my father not to let any good thing that someone does for me, go unappreciated. This appreciation could be something as simple as an acknowledgement and a thank you. Over the years I have applied this very principle to my work life and personal life and the results have been gratifying.
3. It makes you a better person
When you go through your life glossing over anything nice that anyone says to you or does for you, you tend to develop a Spirit of Entitlement. What it means is you believe that it is other people’s duty to be nice to you and do things for you, while you yourself have no such obligation.
If you believe this then you couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I don’t think that people who go through life with this thought could do very well for themselves at least from a relationship standpoint. Appreciating others makes you more open to their positive qualities and actions and builds a better foundation to have a mutually beneficial relationship.
4. Appreciation fosters positivity
Imagine a departmental meeting on a Monday morning. The boss enters the room in a foul mood and blasts everyone in sight for the previous week that according to him or her did not go well. He or she continues the tirade, picks on everyone and then ends the meeting making a doomsday prophecy of how heads would roll if people did not gear up at their work.
How motivated and energetic would you feel when that meeting got over? Would you really look forward to doing something significant that week?
Now imagine another scenario, where the boss starts with acknowledging all that went right the previous week, calling out the names of people who did well and then comes around to some of the things that did not go well and asks people to put their best foot forward this week.
Which of these meetings do you think will get better results and foster team spirit?
Appreciation is always based on positive elements of a social interaction. No one appreciates negativity. By having a mindset of appreciation you start to look for positive things and in doing so instil positivity in your interactions and your environment.
5. Appreciation fosters productivity
People like to be appreciated and more importantly do not want to be criticised in front of their peer group. When people indulge in criticism, it sometimes kills all creativity and initiative as no one wants to take the risk of going wrong and inviting severe criticism.
When this behaviour gets institutionalised it results in lowering productivity across the board. To be really productive you have to try out new ways of doing work and overcoming problems.
If you know that your efforts will be appreciated and that you will not be penalised for trying something different, you will be more inclined to take risks and improve your productivity significantly.
Recognising appreciation as a motivator is one of the reasons that many organisations have resorted to non-financial incentives that are designed to appreciate the efforts of employees.
So, how do you develop your power to appreciate?
1. Start looking for good things in every interaction you have
One of my clients, a very busy person, was not responding to any of my requests for a meeting. After trying for over a month, I managed to get a very brief meeting with him.
When I walked into his office the first thing I noticed was a rather striking painting that hung on the wall behind him. I told him that the painting was lovely and asked him about it. It turned out that this painting was by a very decorated Indian painter who had painted it personally for him and he spent the next fifteen minutes telling me all about it. At that time I did not know that he was so much into art. The conversation was a real eye opener.
He had given me a ten-minute slot for the meeting that now stretched over an hour and half. In that time I had ample opportunity to discuss and close out the entire set of issues that needed his attention.
And, it all started with a chance remark on something nice that I saw.
Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. — Voltaire
2. Make a little effort to find out what people are passionate about
People are most comfortable talking about what they are really passionate about. And, that’s when they are also most receptive to your ideas. Everybody has a passion. You need to really listen to them to find out what it is!
If you take a little trouble to observe and listen, you could end up finding what that person is really passionate about. By doing so, you will enrich the relationship and take it from a purely business plane to something more personal. In the process you could also discover a lot of things about that person that are truly appreciable.
3. Start articulating a nice thing that you notice about another person
If you don’t show appreciation to those that deserve it, they will learn to stop doing the things that you appreciate.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks that people face in their quest to appreciate others is their reluctance to voice their feeling. Even if they see something nice about a person that they are in a conversation with, they hesitate to say it. The hesitation may be because of an apprehension that they could sound shallow or appear insincere or that their appreciation itself may be misinterpreted as an attempt to please someone with an ulterior motive.
The fact is people are always happy to hear anything nice being said about them genuinely. The key-word here is- ‘genuine’. If you try to say something nice without actually meaning it, people are sure to perceive it and that only makes matters worse.
4. Acknowledge the small things in life
There is an old saying-
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step― Lao Tzu
Appreciation is no different. In your daily life you come across so many instances of people doing small things for you. For instance, someone may have held a lift door open for you to enter, someone may have wished you with a smile or complemented you. It may be a small thing but saying a thank you, or returning the smile or acknowledging what someone has done for you, however small, could put you on a path of developing the appreciation mindset.
If you start with small things you will soon find yourself automatically noticing something nice about the people you are interacting with and then saying it to them.
5. Don’t take things for granted
We don’t know the value of what we have until it’s gone
The British Royal Family has 3.6 million “likes” on Facebook, more than double the circulation of The Sun, and 2.6 million followers on Twitter. Despite their status in their country even they make an effort to reach out to people.
In our daily lives, we tend to take a lot of things for granted. At work, it is even more so as we tend to expect others to work for us. The fact is, even if a particular task is a part of someone’s work, acknowledging it when they do it well increases the chances of that task being done well again, with little or no supervision on your part.
Serving you at a restaurant is a responsibility of the restaurant staff. But, acknowledging that service by a simple thank you is something that could make the experience of serving you enjoyable for the person providing that service. In return, the quality of service that you get, could itself improve.
Think about it. It doesn’t really have to be very big for you to appreciate it!
Appreciate what you have before it turns into what you had
You may have encountered the power of appreciation in your own way. Perhaps your appreciation made a difference to someone else. Please feel free to share your experience. Others could benefit from it.
About the Author:
Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.