Leaders Must Master the Art of Acknowledgement

In chapter six of my book, What’s Going Well, I teach readers how to apply the What’s Going Well mindset professionally.

In my experience, the workplace is one of the last places people receive genuine appreciation and acknowledgment—and it shouldn’t be. Recognizing people for their accomplishments and acknowledging a job well-done are essential to employee engagement and satisfaction; it also boosts productivity, changes behavior, and impacts the overall workplace culture!

I find that many people do say thank you after a well-executed project, or during a staff appreciation event; but what about all the opportunities in between to acknowledge people’s efforts?

The best leaders and managers create a culture of recognition and appreciation, where workers feel valued and appreciated year-round. They do this by “catching” someone doing something right and acknowledging them at the moment. They don’t wait for the staff appreciation event or the annual performance review.

Naturally, leaders want to acknowledge people who meet results and achieve desired business outcomes, but I challenge you to recognize people for exhibiting the desired behaviors. When we encourage the right actions and behaviors from our people, over time, it leads to results and an engaged workforce.

Catching an employee doing something right could be as simple as “Hey Susan, I noticed you put in extra effort to help our customer find the form they were seeking. I appreciate you for going above and beyond and serving our customer.”

These six practices will help you on your journey to appreciate people in your life:

  1. Avoid sarcasm or patronizing people. Focus on something you genuinely appreciate and can recognize. It must be meaningful to you and the receiver.

  2. Avoid generic recognition. Be as specific as possible when acknowledging someone. For example, “Greg, you did great today” versus “Greg, I was blown away by your presentation about What’s Going Well for leadership teams. You inspired people to create a better workplace”—which one do you believe would motivate me more?

  3. Avoid being attached to how people respond to your acknowledgment; otherwise, it’s a form of manipulation.

  4. Be sure to reflect and acknowledge yourself too.

  5. When someone recognizes you, slow down and receive the acknowledgment wholeheartedly. Doing so is a way of honoring and respecting the person who is giving you the recognition, and it encourages them to continue the behavior of recognizing people.

  6. Acknowledge people at home and in every area of your life too!