Streetwise: Improve Company Performance Through Appreciation

August 7, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

This week we’re kicking off a 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it. Up first: Appreciating Others.

Appreciating Others, as the name would suggest, is all about focus on others. Specifically, identifying with and caring about others. Those skilled in Appreciating Others are great at making people feel truly seen and heard. They take the time to get to know people on a deeper level and really connect with them.

A person who is good at Appreciating Others is conscious of how his or her actions impact others. And they will utilize this knowledge thoughtfully in a wide variety of scenarios from interacting with others to managing others.

Those skilled in Appreciating Others can connect with all different kinds of people. Because they work to understand and bond with each person as an individual. They appreciate the unique perspectives and talents that each human brings. They build relationships well because people are more likely to trust them. When you truly care about someone they can tell, and they can also tell when you’re not being sincere.

Appreciating Others builds a strong company.

In a recent episode of Brené Brown’s podcast Dare To Lead, she speaks with Doug Conant, the former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company. During the interview, Mr. Conant talks about how he took over a company that had lost its way. When he came to Campbell they were no longer the food giant they once were. In fact, they were one of the poorest performing food companies in the world. And his philosophy to turn things around was that you have to win in the workplace before you can win in the marketplace.

So he set out to do just that.

One of the major ways he won in the workplace was by appreciating others. He spent his commute every morning writing 10-20 handwritten notes to different employees. In each note, he thanked the employee for some contribution they had recently made to a project, to the company, or to a teammate. He took the time to make sure that each person knew that he saw their effort and that he appreciated it. When he did the math, he had written over 30,000 notes over the course of his tenure.

I’m sure Doug’s score in this competency would be off the charts. He gets it. It’s clear that he saw the direct correlation between employee’s feeling valued and company success. He knew that he could never be profitable without engaging his people. And that engaging his people would naturally improve profitability.

Celebrate the wins.

Doug went on to make the point that often large organizations are great at identifying and fixing what’s wrong, but very rarely do they celebrate what’s right. That’s what Appreciating Others is all about. Taking the time to stop and thank the people who are doing so much right. Only focusing on the negative can be debilitating and disengaging. Everyone needs a pat on the back now and then to know their work is important and of value.

A leader who only points out the negative will quickly lose the trust and loyalty of their employees. Appreciating Others and their work goes a long way to building a strong team and a strong company. One where employees are ready and willing to pitch in when times get tough. They know that their effort is noticed and appreciated so they’re more willing to help out.

They also won’t be entertaining other job offers. Even with the promise of more money, they won’t be easily stolen away from a culture that is as strong as yours. They won’t be interested in risking moving to a toxic environment when they know they’re in a great workplace already.

Taking the time to celebrate your employees’ wins lets them know that you care about them as more than just a cog in a wheel. You’ll show them that you are aware of the work they’re putting in and that you appreciate the effort they go to. This type of recognition naturally builds trust and helps your employees stay bought in.

Unfortunately, Appreciating Others is one of the first competencies that gets thrown by the wayside when a crisis hits.

But it is actually one of the most important skills to be leaning on right now. People will not follow someone that they don’t believe in and that they don’t think has their best interest at heart. And that is even truer during a crisis. It is human nature to go into self-preservation mode when our safety or health gets threatened. And if you have not spent time developing relationships with your employees and showing them that you truly care about them as individuals, they will view your actions and decisions with skepticism.

If you’d like to start developing your ability to appreciate others, you can take more time to casually associate with people. Ask them how their weekend was. Have they picked up any new hobbies over the last 18 months? What are their favorite parts of their job? Taking the time to build these more informal connections will help you get to know the person as a whole and therefore have a better understanding of who they are as an individual. You will be surprised what you learn about others when you stop to ask, and actually listen, to their answers.

Your staff needs this type of interaction even more while working virtually.

And especially while living through a global pandemic. Taking the time to stop and get to know each individual and to truly appreciate what they bring to the group will build a great team and great loyalty. It will also help relieve some of the stress that your employees are feeling. They will know that you’ll do everything you can for them during this difficult time and will be more at ease because of that knowledge.

Simple acts of appreciation go a long way to building a strong team and a strong culture. Start going out of your way to appreciate others and you’ll soon see an improvement in your relationships. It may feel awkward at first, but as long as you are sincere and genuine in your praise, your team will start working better together.