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Why Appreciation Matters so Much

| May 29, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s reading – “Why Appreciation Matters so Much” – comes from the pen of Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project and author of Be Excellent at Anything.

Schwartz observes that a recent world-wide study by Towers Watson found that the single highest driver of engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing.  The Towers Watson report says that less than 40% of the workers felt so engaged.  (The American Psychological Association study referenced by Amabile and Kramer in the May 1, 2012 Tuesday Reading, reported a figure of 48% disengaged.)

Schwartz says that being genuinely appreciated lifts people up and enables them to do better work.  We often express “negative emotions – both reactively and defensively, and often without recognizing their corrosive impact on others until much later, if at all.”

In the workplace, researcher Marcial Losada, whose research focus is high performance teams, has found that among high performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighs that of negative feedback by a ratio of 5.6 to 1.  By contrast, in low-performing teams the ration is 0.36 to 1.  Said differently, there will be 5 expressions of positive feedback in high performing teams for every one expression of negative feedback and in in low performing teams its one positive for every three negative.  What a difference!

Schwartz suggests four steps we can take to use appreciation to build a higher performing team:

1.  Do less harm.  We need to do more thinking about how to express people’s value even in situations where they’ve fallen short and we need to get them to change their behavior.

2.  Practice appreciation by starting with yourself.  If you have difficulty appreciating others you likely have difficulty appreciating yourself.  Begin, then by asking yourself the question:  “What can I rightly feel proud of today?”  And, also, “What can I do better tomorrow?”

3.  Make it a priority to notice what others are doing right.  Work at it and make it a practice.

4.  Be appreciative.  The more specific you can be about what you value – and the more you notice what’s meaningful to that person, the more positive your impact on that person is likely to be.

Find someone today to express your appreciation of their work.  And keep doing it every day.


.  .  .  .     jim