Are you a Bah-Humbug Grinch or Generous Santa Leader

However, you choose to ‘be’, your elves are watching and will remember, long after the festive season has been and gone.

If you’re a Grinch, who’s cracking the whip to meet pre-Christmas deadlines, frowning at the time taken for longer lunches and scowling each time you walk past the tinsel, you’re writing a blank cheque for disengagement, low motivation and poor productivity.

When the elves return from their well-deserved break, don’t expect them to be begging you for more work, even tighter deadlines and impossible to meet expectations.

But when you lighten up, cut them some slack and adopt a spirit of generosity,  your elves will respond and reward you. They are way more likely to get things done with a minimum of fuss, creating a productive, fun and festive buzz round the office.

All well and good, but how do you do generosity when you have no budget and lavishing staff with gifts is a social minefield?

The answer is simple, free and incredibly effective...

Give the Gift of Appreciation!

It’s no secret that many people leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated and taken for granted. Slaving away, day in, day out, week after week in a job where only your mistakes are noticed, is soul destroying.

And yet, it’s baffling that so few leaders consciously build acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation into the way they lead.  Perhaps, in the 'busyness' of today’s work, we just get lazy or consumed by other things and simply forget.

Appreciation requires no budget and very little time and the positive effects are cumulative. When your team feels genuinely appreciated they’ll consistently go the extra mile, strive for excellence and achieve better results.

Magically, the more appreciation you give, the greater the payback.

How to DO Appreciation and Recognition

While we all know how to say ‘thank you’, there are ways to make it even more meaningful.

1:  Get the Timing Right

Waiting until Christmas or when you hear your high performer is possibly a flight risk is too late.

Loyal and dedicated Anna had been with her organisation for 23 years. When I asked her why she was thinking of leaving, she said the work had become meaningless and no one seemed to notice what she did. When her boss got wind of her possible departure, he immediately and uncharacteristically lavished her with praise. It was too late – she resigned the next day.

The best time to appreciate someone is in the moment, immediately following the action they've taken that deserves recognition.

2:  Use Specific Examples

A generic ‘thanks’, whilst better than nothing, is soon forgotten. Being specific requires you to name the good deed and identify the positive impact it had. “Thank you so much for the way you xxx. It resulted in yyy which means we are able to zzz.”

3: Consider Individual Styles, Motivators and Preferences

While a natural extrovert may revel in a showy, public accolade, many introverts shudder at the thought. You’ll notice them shrinking down at the back of the room at most awards ceremonies! Be sensitive to the person you’re acknowledging.

Taking them out for a coffee, a thank you phone call or a hand written note will have a lot more meaning, without the embarrassment.

4: Be Present, Sincere and Genuine

Checking your phone, looking at your watch and rushing through the acknowledgement is likely to backfire.

Tokenistic appreciation can be worse than no appreciation at all and your team’s integrity radar will quickly detect any lack of sincerity.

Give the recipient 100% of your undivided attention, take your time and show that you mean it in your choice of words, tone and body language.

5: Mix It Up

When acknowledgement becomes predictable and routine, it loses its gloss and meaning. Here’s how a few different organisations make appreciation an important part of their culture:

  • Stack of blank Thank You Cards – placed on every floor, used by anyone to quietly acknowledge someone who has made a difference to them
  • Smiley Buttons – based on the Fish Philosophy. Every staff member receives 2 smiley faced buttons to be kept in sight, on their desk. When they  see an action or behaviour that makes a positive difference, they give a button to that person, along with a sincere ‘thank you’.

The catch is that you are only allowed to have 2 buttons at any given time. Once you have 3, you must award one to someone else. This encourages everyone to be on the look-out for positive behaviours and generous in acknowledging them.

  • Spontaneous Applause – when an individual or team achieves a milestone or has a win, everyone in the office spontaneously stands up and gives them a clap. You may be thinking, ‘That’s too disruptive in an open plan office!’ However, for the organisation that does this, it’s simply part of what they do and everyone soon gets back to work.
  • Personalised Birthday Song – the routine birthday cake for everyone celebrating a birthday each month soon becomes dull. One organisation swapped this to choosing a song that best describes the person celebrating their birthday and the whole team sings it.

This ritual expanded to creating a play list of acknowledgement songs (cue ‘You’re Simply the Best’) that are also sung when a team member has a win or does something worth acknowledging.

While some of these may seem a little cheesy, the intention is honorable. These organisations are committed to appreciating, recognising and valuing their people in small but meaningful, every day ways.

6:  Make Appreciation and Recognition a Year Long, Daily Habit

Catch people doing the right thing often and acknowledge them. Find someone to thank for something, every single day.

Recognition with Appreciation is a magical gift that keeps on giving all year round.

You’ve got nothing to lose by giving it generously, much more to gain than it costs and you get to feel like Santa all year round!

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron
About Caroline

Caroline Cameron is an award winning, master certified executive, career and business team coach, workshop facilitator and speaker. Caroline is on a mission to help mid-career professionals and evolving organisations harness the power of change to achieve success in business, work and life.

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