Guest post By Dr. Paul White:
One of the lessons that aspiring leaders must learn is: to be an effective leader, you have to be able to lead individuals who are different than you. If you don’t, you will only gather and lead those who are similar to you. This, in turn, limits what you can accomplish. You actually don’t want to lead a group of “Junior You’s” (although the idea seems intriguing, at first.) You may be talented but you can’t do everything, and to accomplish significant goals you need team members who are different (and even significantly different) than you.
The 5 Different Types of Appreciation People Value
Here is a simple but foundational truth: not everyone feels appreciated in the same ways. Not everyone likes public recognition or social events. One leader stated, “You can give me an award but you’ll have to drag me up front for me to get it in front of a crowd.” And for many introverts, going to a “staff appreciation picnic” is more like torture than a reward for doing a good job. They may prefer getting a gift card for a bookstore and staying at home and reading. Find out what they value and communicate in that language.
Some people highly value words of affirmation—which can be a simple compliment. (“Jill, thanks for getting the report completed and to me in time for the presentation.”)
However, other individuals don’t value verbal praise because to them “words are cheap.” One office manager reported that “John compliments everyone all the time and that’s fine. But what I really would like is just 15 minutes of his time and undivided attention, where I can talk to him without distractions.”
A third language of appreciation is “acts of service.” As one team member shared, “It’s not that encouraging to me to get a bunch of praise for all the work I’ve done while I continue to work long hours to finish a job. A little practical help would be quite encouraging.”
For some individuals, a small tangible gift can be quite meaningful. This is not the same as bonuses or additional compensation. Rather, it is a small gift that shows that you’re getting to know your team members and what is important to them in their life outside of work. It can be something as small as one of their favorite cups of coffee, or a magazine about a hobby that they enjoy.
Appropriate physical touch is the final language of appreciation that can be utilized in the workplace. While it is critical that any physical touch is appropriate (not being sexualized or unwanted), physical touch is actually common in many workplaces and cultures. “High five’s” when a project is completed, a “fist bump” given when a problem is solved, or a congratulatory hand shake when an important sale is made are all examples of appropriate physical touch in work-based relationships.
If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.mbainventory.com) was developed to identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another.
Remember, not everyone desires to be shown appreciation in the same way that you do. If you are going to build (and keep) a team of diverse individuals, you need to learn how they want to have appreciation communicated. If you don’t, your scope of influence will be severely limited.
Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and Rising Above a Toxic Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. Go to www.appreciationatwork.com for more information.