The following is an excerpt from Todd Nordstrom and the O.C. Tanner Institute's recent book Appreciate: Celebrating People. Inspiring Greatness.
Picture, for a second, a crowd at a comedy club, booing a comedian on stage--probably one of the most painful visuals you can imagine. The comedian's intentions are good--to make people laugh. The crowd's intentions are to be entertained. Imagine this situation happening over and over again, each time making it harder to stand in front of the next spotlight. There's not a lot of great work or appreciation being shared, until the night a guy named Rodney Dangerfield, one of the more famous comedians of his time, sees something special in you--a unique talent.
That's what happened to Jim Carrey, who, after witnessing his father lose his stable job in the insurance industry, vowed to become what his father had always dreamed of becoming--a comedian. Dangerfield, seeing something special, gave Carrey the chance to be his opening act, and not long after, Jim's career launched into stardom--all because the right person appreciated his talent. In a recent speech given to college graduates, Carrey relayed lessons he's learned throughout his life and career. Possibly the most profound statement he made was, "I can tell you that the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is."
Most of us are not even aware of the impact we have on our team members. We talked to Bridgette, who is an electronics buyer for Best Buy. She received a letter from a former intern that had worked with her nearly ten years ago. "She told me I was the first person to truly believe in her. Honestly, I don't remember doing or saying anything special. I did not realize at the time the impact and influence I had on her--or probably all of the people I worked with throughout the years. I do, however, remember this intern specifically and thinking that she will be successful someday. I still have the card and letter she sent me. It meant a lot to discover that I had that much influence on her."
As a manager, consider how instances of appreciation could influence the future of great work from your team members. They're not just mere niceties or compliments. Thinking about ways you could show appreciation to your team might make you question whether or not your words and appreciation could have the same impact and influence as the words shared with you. We all question ourselves. But, again, reflect on your great work moments where you remember the person who influenced your work.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who was the influencer?
- What did they say or do?
- What were the results that followed?
Detailing these moments in your life can instantly take you back. You may even experience the flutter or pride or excitement you felt. And you may ask yourself, "Why was that so powerful?"
Aren't people appreciated enough?
If appreciation is so important, you would think that most leaders are adequately expressing it. But the truth is they're not. According to the O.C. Tanner Institute's 2016 Great Work Index research, one in four employees, globally, doesn't feel as if they are appreciated. That number doesn't sound all that bad, does it? Nevertheless, realize that number accounts for all titles and levels within an organization-- individual contributors, managers, directors, and all the way up the ladder. The point is if you hear that 75 percent of employees feel appreciated, you'd assume most companies are doing a good job of recognizing people. But there's a lot more to the story.
Here's where the numbers change drastically and can truly affect your role and ability as a leader. Notice in the chart below the significant drop in the number of non-manager, individual contributors who received recognition at work within the past month, compared to managers and above. As you can clearly see, recognition is not being given equally to all titles and roles. Individual contributors, by far, feel they receive the least recognition. And, in most companies, individual contributors are the bulk of the workforce.
Thinking specifically about the past month, which of the following best describes how often you have received recognition at work?
Think about how these responses might reflect your organization. Are the people leading the organization receiving the most praise for their work? And what does that low percentage, only 26 percent, mean when it comes to producing results for your team or organization? As a leader in your company, this is your opportunity to influence results of the individual contributors. It's your opportunity to show them how much their work is appreciated, and it's your job to express your appreciation through recognition.