what are the practical steps you can take, especially as a manager, to use appreciation in the service of building a higher-performing (and more sustainable) team?
1. As the Hippocratic oath prescribes to physicians, “Above all else, do no harm.” Or perhaps more accurately, do less harm, since it’s unrealistic to do none. The costs of devaluing others are so great that we need to spend far more time thinking than we do now about how to hold people’s value, even in situations where they’ve fallen short and our goal is get them to change their behavior for the better.
2. Practice appreciation by starting with yourself. If you have difficulty openly appreciating others, it’s likely you also find it difficult to appreciate yourself. Take a few moments at the end of the day to ask yourself this simple question: “What can I rightly feel proud of today?” If you are committed to constant self-improvement, you can also ask yourself, “What could I do better tomorrow?” Both questions hold your value.
3. Make it a priority to notice what others are doing right. The more you work at it, the better you’ll get at it, and the more natural it will become for you. For example, start by thinking about what positive qualities, behaviors and contributions you currently take for granted among the members of your team. Then ask yourself, what is it that each of them uniquely brings to the table?
4. Be appreciative. The more specific you can be about what you value — and the more you notice what’s most meaningful to that person — the more positive your impact on that person is likely to be. A handwritten note makes a bigger impression than an email or a passing comment, but better any one of them than nothing at all.
We’re all more vulnerable and needy than we like to imagine. Authentically appreciating others will make you feel better about yourself, and it will also increase the likelihood they’ll invest more in their work, and in you. The human instinct for reciprocity runs deep.