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Simplify Leadership: Appreciate

Last week, we dug into the first step of the Simplify Leadership model: Observe. We took a look at how important it is for managers to be present and observant in their workplaces. And that sets the stage perfectly for step 2: Appreciate.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, and what better segue into the importance of appreciation? This time of year teaches us about the importance of being thankful for what we have. How many of us have a family tradition where before Thanksgiving dinner, each member of the family takes a turn sharing what they're thankful for? I'm definitely in that group. It's something we've done for as long as I can remember.

But why?

Because telling other people that they matter to you feels good. It feels good to you, and it definitely feels good to them. Appreciation transcends generation, language, country of origin, and culture. Appreciation binds us together, it reminds us that we are part of a unit. When you tell someone they matter, you become part of their unit. And they become part of yours. And there's comfort in that. Doesn't it feel good to know that you matter? It does to your family, it does to your friends, and it definitely matters to the people you work with.

Appreciation is Powerful

Genuine and heart-felt appreciation is a powerful thing. Make no mistake, appreciation isn't just a "feel-good" thing. It is a performance driver. Consider the study done by the Wharton School of Business at UPenn. Students were hired to solicit fundraising contributions from alumni. In a group of students, a high ranking member of the university showed up to personally thank them for their efforts in helping raise money for the University. In the control group, the students received no appreciation. The appreciation experienced by the first group led them to outperform the control group by 50%. I'll restate that one, an important person took 5 minutes to say thank you, and productivity increased by half.

Think about the implications of that data. A 2016 study by Socialcast revealed that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated. What is your time worth? Your team members know how valuable your time is. So when you take time out of your day to engage with them, to thank them for their work, you'd better believe it matters. In fact, it's probably more accurate to say they're soaking it in. And it doesn't require hours of your time, we're talking minutes. But those minutes may just be the most impactful minutes you'll spend in your day.

It's Recognition, Too

Appreciation goes beyond just simply being thankful. It's also recognizing the the talents and the potential of your team members. Leadership is rarely about what you know, it's about leveraging what your employees know. A lot of managers are of the opinion that their job includes needing to know everything and have all the answers. That's simply not true. Instead, just keep it simple:

  1. Surrount yourself with smart, driven people who want to do the job right.

  2. Include them in the discussion, ask some questions and help to guide the discussion.

  3. Agree on the best decision as a group.

  4. Support them through the implementation.

The result is something that our team came up with together, it's been vetted by all of you, and you all own it because you came up with it together. You'll find that most of your employees have a pretty good read on things. And a lot of times, while they certainly know what the problems are, they also have some pretty great ideas on how to fix them. And this actually makes your job easier, because you don't always need to be the person who has to come up with the fixes. Instead, generate the discussion and let your team help move you forward. And in so doing, you are increasing their confidence and self-worth to your company.

Let's be honest, leaders are crunched for time. I have yet to meet a manager who has spare time open on their calendar. But at the end of the day, it comes down to priorities. I asked the question last time, when we were discussing step 1: Observe. What is more important, the work or your people? It's easy to stay cooped up in your office churning our work. But the best leaders put their time where it will deliver the most return, and that is spent appreciating and recognizing their people.

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