Written by: Ron Scheese

While college graduates historically move from the ivy-covered halls of campus life to the rough and tumble “real-world”, COVID delayed that experience for many.  One of the blessings I received from the COVID pandemic was the opportunity to share the launch of my daughter’s journalism career as she and I were both forced to work from home for quite some time.

I observed a pattern of intensity on days when my daughter was engaged and contributing to the broadcast that evening.  That intensity turned into elation by the simple acknowledgment and comment by a teammate or from a leader.   Kassandra would come downstairs to grab lunch or a snack and share her latest message that complimented her work or contribution. Each day she beamed with pride that her efforts mattered.

Please hear me out – SHE WAS JUST DOING HER JOB!

She was learning, she was growing, but she was only completing the tasks she was hired to do.  Yet, those compliments, those moments of appreciation mattered in how she approached her work.

Her experiences reminded me that we do not need to be physically present to express appreciation. Gratitude can be shared over distance or via different communication medias.  It was eye-opening for me to watch my daughter’s confidence and self-esteem blossom when her manager or colleagues recognized her on a Zoom call or in a personal e-mail.

The way she reacted to expressions of appreciation reminded me of the story of how one of the most successful coaches in history instilled a culture of appreciation on his UCLA Bruins basketball team.  In case you didn’t know,  John Wooden won ten National NCAA championships over a 12-year span from 1964 to 1975.

Wooden taught that each time a player scored, they were to acknowledge whoever helped make the play.  If a teammate made a great pass or set a pick that allowed the shooter to be open, the scorer was to acknowledge the teammate back down the court.  Coach Wooden understood that even the slightest gesture of recognition would encourage the individual and create a stronger unity within the entire team.  He understood that individuals thrived on recognition and appreciation – even when they were fulfilling their assigned responsibilities of just setting a pick or passing the ball.

In their book, Leading on Purpose, Andesa’s Board Chair, Rip Tilden, and co-author Tim Thomas explain the importance of recognition this way:

“Businesses meet employee’s ego needs through advancement, appreciation, rewards and acknowledgement.  This doesn’t sound so hard, and isn’t, in theory. In practice, it is another matter. In a 2003 study, five thousand employees were asked, “What is the first thing your immediate supervisor said to you when you completed your last major project?”  A full 94 percent said that their supervisor said nothing.  Nothing!

Ouch!  So much for appreciation, reward, and acknowledgement. It’s little wonder that many employees feel that their ego needs are being swept into the dustbin.

When team members perform well, you as a leader might think, “But that’s’ their job! Why should I reward them for just doing their job?”  The answer to that question depends on whether you want engaged employees or dissatisfied drones.  If you want engagement, learn to thank, praise, celebrate and reward your employees.

In my book, More Than A Company,  the chapter on Respect opens with a quote by boxer turned celebrity entrepreneur George Foreman, “Without appreciation and respect for other people, true leadership becomes ineffective, if not impossible.”

Relaying a kind, appreciative word is easy. These small acts of genuine appreciation might just provide comfort to someone who is stressed or encourage someone who is struggling.  An attitude of gratitude has the potential to motivate those around us.

In the broadcast studio, on the court or in a work environment, being part of a team and feeling the support from your teammates is one of the best feelings an individual can have.  We are not a team because we work together.  Appreciation teaches us that we are a team because we respect, trust and care for one another and that makes an impact.

Who do you need to thank and acknowledge today?

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