Appreciation…the mark of a leader

Posted by on Nov 25, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

As I celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US with my family, I think about the meaning of the holiday.  In its most basic terms, this holiday is about appreciation.  We are appreciative for the things we have – our freedoms, our families, our friends, traditions shared around a great meal.  It’s a time to reflect.

It’s interesting that a country makes it a priority to stop to appreciate.  This day commemorates both the individual and collective act of appreciation; and, to me, it serves as poignant metaphor and a reminder to the leaders of organizations.  Appreciation is one of the rare human behaviors that motivates regardless of culture, age, or geography.   It is universal.  Not only is it universal, it is the supreme motivator.   People will literally die for appreciation.   Napoleon Bonaparte recognized the power of appreciation when he said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” 

Organizations benefit greatly by having traditions around appreciation.  I believe that, as leaders, it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that our people are appreciated for the things they do, for what they contribute, and for how they support our culture.  In fact, appreciating people is one of the defining characteristics of a leader.  Appreciation can sometimes be expressed at an annual all-hands meeting where plaques and awards are given out.  While this type of collective and public display of appreciation is needed periodically, it is certainly important to notice and appreciate something as small as someone’s effort to get an important shipment out or their success in dealing with a particularly difficult customer call.

Each person has a need for appreciation.  What they need to be appreciated for and how they wish to be appreciated can differ dramatically from person to person.  So it behooves leaders to inquire so they know how and for what their people wish to be appreciated.  Not everyone has the need or desire to be appreciated publicly – some even find the experience uncomfortable.  Others will not feel you are sincere if you appreciated them for doing something that they feel is mundane.  So again, the way you express appreciation and what you give appreciation for matters a great deal.

So on this holiday of Thanksgiving, as we collectively and privately give thanks, let’s remember the people we work with and those who helped us get where we are today.  The technicians, engineers, support staff, clients, and vendors – each of them brings great skill and enthusiasm to the work that we do.  Let us also make it our mission as leaders to show them appreciation every day for what they do for us.

And in that spirit, thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you.

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