The Under-Appreciated Element of Company Culture

Most companies believe that recognition equals material rewards. Employees are showered with perks including food, clothing, vacation times, paid leave, classes etc. These incentives are really nice to have, and encourage individuals to perform at the highest level, but the most meaningful incentive of all that encourages excellence doesn't have a monetary value attached.

There are three innate needs of every human being: to belong, to be empowered, and to find meaning in their work. To satisfy these needs, we must feel appreciated.

In order to feel appreciated there must be meaningful challenges, dignified treatment and heartfelt words of praise.

As Peter Drucker points out, “We have known for fifty years that money alone does not motivate to perform. Dissatisfaction with money grossly demotivates. Satisfaction with money is simply a ‘hygiene factor’”

The same point has been verified by Gallup based on more than two million surveys and eighty thousand interviews that “the best managers reinforce how and why each person's contribution is fundamental to the team's success.”

The question asked in their survey is simple. “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” If you can’t answer that, then you probably are not getting recognition or appreciation consistently.

In 2017, I developed an acronym for the programs I have been teaching for the last twelve years. It’s called VITAL and it has five fundamental elements that I consider to be the pillars of great leadership. These include Vision, Insights, Trust, Appreciation and Legacy. Without these elements it is impossible to build strong leadership that impacts all future leaders.

True appreciation is special. It supports excellence. Who amongst us has not wanted to work harder, be more responsible, have greater pride in what we are doing when complimented, or when our contributions have been recognized. Fred Kofman, author of Conscious Business : how to build value through values, says that a “high-praise environment is a high-performance environment.”

All of us want to feel we are significant. We want to be respected and appreciated, and want to feel that we matter. Many of us choose our careers because we want to make a difference. But we also want to be recognized for our contributions. We all need encouragement to continue doing what we’re doing.

When someone affirms your importance you feel worthy. When your boss or supervisor indicates that they care about you, and what you do, your focus changes, and your commitment increases.

But showing appreciation is not always easy to spot. You can say ‘good job’ to someone as you pass them by, but that appreciation changes when announcing to the team ‘ Mary was responsible for bringing a new client today, and I’m extremely proud of her for the contribution she just made to the department and the company. Thanks for being on the team Mary. I admire your dedication and greatly appreciate your contribution.”

Do you think Mary wanted to deliver results like this again? You bet.

Related: Are You Ready To Set Intentions for 2018?

Appreciation and trust is the glue that holds high-performing teams together, but to be done correctly it’s important to consider the following:

1. Effective recognition is direct. Do not speak about others in third person but address the person directly. Make it known that you are speaking to them and recognize their contribution.

2. Effective recognition is specific. Thanks is not enough. Tell them what you admire or respect in them. Identify the specific consequences of their tangible actions.

3. Effective recognition is respectful. Tell them how their actions affected you, and the impact it had on the customer or company.

Acknowledgement is fundamental to all of us, but doing it with meaning, being direct, specific, openhearted and respectful requires that we pay more than lip service. We need a high level of participation in the process. By creating a culture of appreciation you show you care for people by demanding accountability and praising contributions.

As the research has shown, a highly engaged workforce who are consistently appreciated for their efforts will outperform a mediocre one every time.