Similar to trust, appreciation is relationship-based — each interaction with someone strengthens or weakens that invisible connection. The more we feel appreciated, the stronger those bonds become, and the more tension they can withstand when something challenges it. Consequently, knowing how to build and maintain relationships where people feel appreciated is a foundational skill — one that’s important to learn from the very early stages of your career.
While appreciation is something you can express, it’s also something you can show through your actions and behaviors. If you – as a manager or an individual contributor — want to build the kind of relationships where people feel valued, communication flows, and great work gets done, it’s important to expand your understanding of appreciation beyond verbal expressions and learn to show people you value them as well.
Show your appreciation for people’s presence.
To feel a sense of belonging, people must know that others care that they are there. Sure, we all get paid to show up to our jobs every day. But the reality is that our peers and direct reports could choose to work elsewhere. Letting someone know their presence is having an impact on you or the organization can make a big difference. Managers and individual contributors alike can share this appreciation with the following actions:
- Although it sounds like basic decency, greet people when they arrive at the office or join a meeting, and say goodbye when they leave.
- Notice when people are missing at work and reach out: “I haven’t seen you at work for three days. Just checking in to make sure you’re okay?”
- If people work late or cover for you or others, notice and acknowledge what they are doing. Bring them a cup of coffee and let them know you are ready to cover for them in the future.
- Even if it is people’s job to be there, thank them for coming.
Show your appreciation of people’s ideas and contributions.
Creating a psychologically safe environment where people openly share ideas and speak up when there is a problem is everyone’s job. Managers and individual contributors alike need to show colleagues that their input is welcome and celebrated.
Leaders can role model how to treat one another by actively seeking and amplifying other people’s ideas, and individual contributors can do the same with their peers. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Nurture a culture of sharing ideas by asking for employee input in each staff meeting.
- Honor people’s ideas and expertise by talking them up in senior leader meetings: “Maria is actually the one who came up with the idea for this project and has been leading the team to make the result happen!”
- In meetings, ask quiet, less vocal team members to share input or ideas on projects: “Keshia, what do you think about this? I would love to hear your ideas on the project.”
- When people share input or feedback on a project, whether you like their idea or not, actively listen. Nod along, ask questions, and thank them for sharing.
- When working on a project, ask others for feedback and ideas on how to improve.
- Adopt a “Yes, and” mentality when it comes to other people’s ideas. Instead of saying “I disagree,” say, “Yes, and what about…?” and share another idea or addition to their idea.
- When someone has a great idea that people did not hear, bring it to the attention of others: “I want to bring the attention back to an idea Ethan shared earlier. Ethan, would you mind repeating?”
- If someone gives you credit for another person’s ideas, direct their praise to the correct person: “Thank you for noticing, but that was all John’s idea! Make sure you let him know, he will love to know you feel this way!”
Show your appreciation of people’s lives outside of work.
Our jobs should help us live our best lives, not take them over. For our employees to feel appreciated, they need to know that we understand their passions, priorities, and responsibilities outside of work.
People need leaders who respect boundaries and role model self care, and coworkers who nurture a culture of support. Here are a few ideas.
- In order to appreciate people’s lives outside of work, you need to know about them. Take the time to ask about your direct reports’ weekends, holidays, and hobbies outside of work. Learn about their families, kids, and what they do for fun.
- Display work-life balance by having a life outside of work yourself. For example, leave work to go to your kids’ events to show others that balance is encouraged.
- Avoid scheduling meetings before 9 am and after 5 pm so people are not forced to choose between making the boss happy and living their lives.
- Avoid sending emails on weekends, late at night, and on vacations.
- If someone has a major life change — like getting married, having a child, losing a loved one, having surgery, or going through a divorce — ask how you and the team can best support them. Put a note in your calendar to check in a month later. It can make a world of difference to your colleague that you remember.
- Before making a request at 5 pm on a Friday, think about how the request may impact your employee’s life outside of work. If it can wait until Monday, let it.
- One of the best ways to support people’s lives outside of work is to always keep them in mind when you’re at work. Every time we fail to deliver on time, show up, or do our tasks, it has an impact on others. When we don’t do our work to the best of our abilities, it means someone else’s work is impacted. The best way to respect people’s lives outside of work is to honor and respect their time at work. Be an extraordinary coworker.
- Take time to understand your coworkers’ lives outside of work. Ask them about their families, hobbies, and how they spend their time.
- Nurture a community of support in your office by stepping up for each other when one of you goes on vacation, has a doctor’s appointment, or needs to attend an important event.
Show your appreciation of people’s need for growth and development.
One of the main reasons employees give for leaving jobs is a lack of development opportunities. While many people think development is about promotions and attending trainings, it’s also about being around people who challenge us — managers that take time to understand and support our career goals, and coworkers who help us learn and grow. Give the following a try.
- If you don’t already know the career goals and aspirations of your direct reports, take time to understand them. Learn about what skills they want to develop and the kinds of projects they want to be working on. What topics are interesting to them and what kind of role do they see themselves in in five years?
- Once you know people’s goals, actively find opportunities that can help them develop those skills through stretch assignments, job shadowing, conferences, internal presentations, or challenging projects. Be sure to debrief and help the person link the skills they are developing to the assignment they’re working on.
- Have regular “stay conversations” to make sure your direct reports feel fulfilled at work and that they are learning and growing in their roles.
- If your employee has the desire to go back to school or earn professional certification, find ways to help them carve time out in their schedule to take classes.
- If someone is excelling in their position, and there is no room to move up in your company, help them explore opportunities at other companies. Let them know you will be their reference if they find an opportunity for growth outside of your organization.
- Ask your coworkers for feedback and tips on how you can improve and invite them to do the same with you: “Maria, thank for attending my presentation I would love you’re your input. What are one or two things could I do next time to improve?”
- Take time to learn about the career goals of the people on your team and find ways to support them to work toward them: “Jon, I am curious what are some of your career goals? Is there anything I can do to support you with the experience and knowledge I have?
- If you hear about learning opportunities or networking events, or find interesting articles they may help your coworker, share them.
- When a colleague gets a promotion, celebrate with them. “Hey Vas, I just saw the announcement you were promoted! It made my day to see and just wanted you to know I excited for you.”
Source: Christopher Littlefield, Harvard Business Review
“Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret”.
– Mary Kay Ash
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DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication
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