I'll start with a story. Many years ago in the first few days of my marriage, a seemingly small event opened my eyes to a truth that has become one of the most important principles that I live by.
One day my husband thanked me for unloading the dishwasher. I was surprised. Why would he thank me for doing a routine house chore? It seemed strange since no one had ever thanked me for chores before, but it felt good. I kind of wanted to unload the dishwasher again so he would thank me again. Reflecting on the moment, it occurred to me that appreciation not only feels good, but it motivates you to do more of the same.
Let’s scale that dishwasher example up to the workplace to understand an even bigger impact a culture of appreciation can have.
Impact of Appreciation
I am a very fortunate team leader. I have an awesome team of highly skilled, highly motivated software developers who are good human beings and work well together. I have a lot to be thankful for. I look for opportunities to call out my team members on their good work and to thank them for a job well done. I see three benefits in this.
Appreciation makes you feel good. When I am thanked by my engineering manager for a job well done, I feel that I am valued and my work is recognized and meaningful. I feel inspired to work harder when I feel that my work makes a difference. I feel good about working here when I am thanked. I want each and every one of my team members to feel the same way. I want them to know that every one of them is a vital part of the team. When I express my appreciation for my team members, I want them to feel good and have a positive work environment.
Appreciation increases productivity. Studies show that appreciation leads to higher productivity. When I am thanked for a job well done, I want to do it well again! When I thank my team members for their key contributions I find that I see a lot more of the same good work. It’s especially critical to notice when they do something good and thank them.
Constructive feedback is easier to give and receive. When I get feedback from my manager, if I hear ten good things and one constructive piece of feedback, I am much more open to listening to the constructive feedback. I don’t feel like I’m being nagged or berated for poor performance when it’s put in the context of all the good feedback I’ve received. As a team leader, I have the same strategy. I make sure that I recognize all the good work, behaviors, and habits from my team and then when I need to provide constructive feedback I feel comfortable sharing that constructive feedback and I find my team members to be very open to that input.
Maximize Your Appreciation Power
Do you want to maximize the impact of your appreciation? Here are a few tips I recommend.
Look for things to appreciate. If you’re not in the habit of saying thank you, you might need to train yourself to look for things to say thank you for. Did someone do something unexpected that made a difference to you or the project? Did someone put in extra effort or just do a really good job? That’s worthy of a thank you. Try reflecting on what has happened and your interactions with people a few times a day and look for things that you appreciate. Not only will you be able to make their day better by expressing gratitude, but studies show that intentionally looking for things to be grateful for is good for your own mental health. Again, it’s a win-win.
At ISE, we love our Kudos board. It’s an opportunity to say thank you to our colleagues. We have a stack of blank cards next to a bulletin board. When a coworker does something you appreciate, you write them a note of thanks and stick it to the board. At the end of the month there’s a drawing for a $25 gift card so the person you appreciate may get an even bigger treat than a thank you. Many people hang the thank you cards in their cubes when they are distributed at the end of the month. I love the Kudos board.
Don’t couple a Thank You with a request for more work. If you often follow a thank you with a request more work, the thank you will be perceived as insincere. A sincere thank you should come with no strings attached.
Say Thank You with impact. To take your thank you to the next level, give a thank you with impact. First, tell what you are thankful for. Then share the positive impact of what the person has done. Here are a few examples:
“Thank you for the extra effort you put into preparing our customer demo. It was impressive and I could tell they were excited by our new features.”
“Thank you for taking the time to mentor me. I have grown a lot as a team leader from your guidance.”
Make Your World a Better Place
Building a culture of appreciation wherever you go makes your world a better place.
Everything I have shared here is equally applicable to home, the workplace, and every part of your life. Expressing your gratitude is good for the person you are thanking and it’s good for your own mental health and outlook on life. Thank someone today – with impact!