Tell me; have you ever had a project which challenged you, and on which you spent time and effort only to have it received with curt thanks and very little else? How did you feel?

At a recent discussion group on Leadership we spent a lot of time on Vision and Values; we really turned them over and some quite heating exchanges occurred about the ethics of leadership.

We discussed, oh for ages, the importance of skills and knowledge and the value of Business Coaching for those seem to lack them. And didn’t we wax lyrical on the need to implement the vision! Goal setting was our watchword; delegation was our mantra; being a role model was our aim.

We discussed motivating our staff until the coffee got cold, and some animated views on Gen X and Gen Y hit the air waves – but recognition of work done? Never got mentioned.

Now go back to my opening question – how motivated would you feel to put the same amount of work and effort into another project? I have asked the same question at all of our workshops, and an amazing 98% said that they would not exert themselves to the same degree again if they were not going to receive at least some recognition for their efforts. (The other 2% thought it was a trick questions and weren’t going to answer!!)

When we consider what it is that motivates our work force we think of increased pay; better bonuses; improved work conditions and even employing a “Wellness Officer” and filling the working space with aromatherapy ambience – but do we ever consider that a simple “Well done” might have some benefits?

My fellow discussion group looked a little surprised when I suggested it. “I always say thank you” said one member indignantly – “It’s polite” Now there is a great deal of difference between a polite murmured thanks and a hearty congratulations for the work actually done. It means, if it is a written submission for instance, that you have read it and considered it – seriously. Not taken it home, briefly read it on the train and shoved it back into the briefcase not to be thought of again until maybe a week later.

Think how you react when something you have dedicated time and effort to is so carelessly handled; and when you wait in vain for some feedback on its value. If you are really interested in what the boss thought about it you may have to ask him yourself – but don’t be surprised if all you get back is “Not bad!”

Now contrast that to someone who receives your work with polite thanks and then says, “I’m looking forward to getting your thoughts on this project; and I appreciate the time and effort you have put into it.” Right away you feel that your effort has been valued; and notice the boss hasn’t read it, may not agree with your conclusions, but has certainly noticed the work you have done.

And that’s the secret to what I call “Appreciation Feedback” – being aware of what your staff is doing, and that means taking some notice of what is actually going on in front of you!

People react much more positively to quiet words of recognition that is ongoing, than to big time ceremonies with certificates and things. The ceremony, once over, is a fleeting thing and the staff member can then be ignored. But a leader who is alert to the achievements of his staff is always able to offer quiet words of encouragement and appreciation.

There are some leaders who do this naturally, and they are often held in such esteem as to be beyond value. I met some in the army, and without hesitation we would have worked twice as hard for them as for those that chose to recognise effort with a large parade and a presentation followed by forgetfulness.

We, as leaders, are always able to find what is wrong in our staff’s efforts, and we have no hesitation in pointing this out to them. Such continuous carping can build an unwillingness to be innovative, or even to put in extra effort. It can also blunt confidence and will certainly breed animosity.

If we are so observant of our staff’s failures can we not be equally observant of their triumphs and successes; can we not point out how much we really appreciate their dedication, and can we not recognise the extra time they have spent on that special project?

If we ever have had to motivate a volunteer group we will be well aware that money will probably not be an objective with them, but always it will be recognition of effort as well as achievement that keeps volunteers giving up their own time to help others. So how much more our own staff?

It is a simple thing, but one which can receive spectacular results, but it does need for you to wake up and be on the look out for things to approve, efforts to be recognised and achievements to be appreciated. And then, all it takes is a simple “Thank you for reading this blog, it is really appreciated”


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