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Message From Julie: Resolve to Appreciate the Ordinary

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I recently attended the wedding of a friend’s daughter. In his toast to the couple, the Man of Honor encouraged them to appreciate the ordinary as the way to achieve the extraordinary. He urged them to appreciate ordinary things like walks and shared sunsets and suggested in doing so they would find the extraordinary.

I believe that not only is this a powerful life lesson, but also a powerful lesson for leaders. There is a slew of research on why it is important for team members to feel appreciated.

  • A Robert Half study showed that 66% of employees leave their job because of lack of appreciation.
  • According to a study by Work.com, 69% of employees perform better when they receive appreciation and recognition.
  • In a Glassdoor survey 81% of employees said they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows them appreciation, compared to 38% of employees who said they are motivated to work harder when their boss is demanding or the 37% who say they are motivated tow worker harder out of the fear of losing their job.

Appreciation has a positive impact on the things leaders care about like retention, productivity, and yes even profitability.  Yet, showing appreciation to team members, especially for the ordinary, is a habit far too few of the leaders I encounter have developed. The prevailing sentiment too often seems to be, “Why should I show appreciation to employees for doing what they are being paid to do?”

The answer, “Because appreciating the ordinary is the path to the extraordinary”, as the Man of Honor so eloquently articulated in his toast to the newlyweds in the opening story.

Developing the Habit of Showing Appreciation for the Ordinary

Showing appreciation does not come naturally to many leaders. Leading requires a myriad of competencies and while some of these competencies come naturally to some and others come naturally to others, I have yet to meet anyone for whom all the required leadership competencies come naturally.

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In addition, there is always a gap between our thoughts and the words that come out of our month. This leads to an appreciation “gap” where we rate ourselves higher at showing appreciation than others rate us.

To be effective leaders, we must develop those competencies that don’t come naturally as habits – and that includes showing appreciation, especially for the ordinary. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habits, Why We do What We Do in Life and Business, developing a habit begins with cue that triggers a behavior and leads to a reward.

Here is how it might work for showing appreciation:

  • You notice one of your direct reports finished up their work early and volunteered to help a teammate (cue)
  • You are pleased to see this as it is a behavior you have been encouraging your team to do more of so you immediately tell the employee thank-you (behavior)
  • This results in the employee as well as others on the team engaging in the behavior more frequently (reward)

My experience with human behavior (and dog training) tells me that showing appreciation for the ordinary (small) things on a regular (daily) basis will more likely to lead to extraordinary results than appreciating the extraordinary on an infrequent basis.

Practicing Your Habit of Appreciating the Ordinary

Here are three (free) ways you can practice your habit of appreciating the ordinary:

  • Say thank you (especially for the little things that you expect people to do as part of their job)
  • Write a thank you note (or even send an email or text)
  • Ignore small mistakes

What are some additional (free) ways that you show (or could show) appreciation for your team?

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