Thank you! The power of appreciation & gratitude

Well done! Great job! Thanks!

It has been said that Sorry seems to be the hardest word [1], but for many people it’s “thanks”.

At my organisation we are encouraged to give regular, constructive feedback to allow us all to improve the areas that we may be weaker at. That’s very valuable, but maybe we don’t spend enough time simply praising or giving thanks to each other?

I’ve always wondered why people don’t seem to find it easy to give praise or express gratitude. It seems to me that people are much more inclined to criticise. Even that “constructive feedback” has an implied criticism and while useful, won’t give the recipient that warm feeling.

In fact a recent survey [2] of almost 8000 managers found that 40% never give praise of any kind, whereas another study [3] showed that high performing teams get on average six times more positive messaging than lower performing teams. And it’s not just in the workplace. It’s long been known that successful marriages and relationships feature a positive:negative feedback ratio of at least 5:1. If that ratio is much lower then it’s a significant predictor of divorce [4].

Seems to me saying thanks is most definitely a good thing. So I’ve done a bit of research.

What are the benefits of saying thanks?

  • Mutual happiness
    • It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. Everyone’s a winner.

 

  • Bridge building
    • Gratitude is a great tool to turn around a bad relationship. If an interaction isn’t going well, then finding a reason to show appreciation can be that starting point for resolving issues and mending your relationship with someone.

 

But it’s not easy. Many people find it very difficult to express gratitude. Why?

  • Cringe factor
    • I know some people that find a praise-giving session tough to deliver. They find it slightly embarrassing. And sometimes the recipients can also [5]. That can be a barrier and mean that praise gets as far as someone’s mind, but no further as no-one wants an emotionally uncomfortable situation. I find that the more you get into the habit if giving praise, the more comfortable you get and you also learn to recognise the reaction of the recipient and tailor your approach accordingly.

 

  • We expect “out of the ordinary”
    • At work we expect excellence from our colleagues. So often, extra praise isn’t given unless someone demonstrates out of the ordinary performance. Like someone who doesn’t tip because the “server is just doing their job”. I try to think more about trust, reliability & attitude rather than going the extra mile. There are plenty of colleagues that I’ve thanked or praised simply because they make my life easier in any number of ways. In cases like these it’s important to be specific and constructive. Praising a particular behaviour gives the recipient more to work with than generic thanks. It also appears more genuine [6].

 

  • We don’t want people to get one up on us
    • Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. “Why should I praise that person, they’ll get better at their job and then they’ll make more progress than me?” Yes this is the wrong attitude in a collaborative firm, but it’s out there, fortunately in small doses. For those that may think that way, I’d suggest reading about the power of givers and takers – something I’ll be blogging about in future.

 

Ok that’s cool – I want to be more grateful, but how? There are plenty of tips for giving effective gratitude.

 

How to express generosity

  • A weekly gratitude note
    • I like this one. I end my week by sending a weekly note to someone that I appreciate. I find it gives me (and hopefully them) a nice warm feeling at the end of a week. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant recommends “chunking” gestures of gratitude for maximum effect. [7]

 

  • Make it public
    • Showing gratitude in public is also powerful. My team has a bi-weekly project update and in it we have a section called “Agile BI Appreciates“, where the team calls out anyone they feel like. See here for an example.

 

  • Keep a thanks diary
    • People easily forget when you’ve either done something well or when they have done something well. Recording experiences boosts the positive feeling. Create an Outlook “Quick Step” to file mails that fall into the “thanks” category for later use.

 

  • Mental exercises
    • Yes you can train your brain to be more of a thankful and appreciative person [8].

 

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading. Comments invited.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_Seems_to_Be_the_Hardest_Word

[2] https://qz.com/work/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764203260208

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201308/why-some-people-hate-receiving-compliments

[6] https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/the-thing-that-many-people-get-wrong-about-giving-praise.html

[7] https://hurryslowly.co/adam-grant/

[8] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/

Accelerate your career with a Personal Board of Directors

Hi all,

As we wrap up annual performance review season, you’ll all be on the receiving end of feedback. Some of it will be good, some of it will be less so, but hopefully it will all be constructive. With any luck there won’t be any big surprises in there, that’s always unpleasant. Feedback should be a continuous process throughout the year, driven by the individual.

A great way of creating that pipeline of continuous feedback, advice and support is to think of yourself as a company. Banoub Inc. if you will. Has a nice ring to it actually. The best companies operate with a solid, skilled and experienced Board of Directors, working together to provide the direction that the company needs. No one person can do it all themselves.

And that’s the same with you. We all need our own Personal Board of Directors. The people that can advise, critique, praise, motivate and generally steer each of us through the minefield that is our career.

I like to think of my own Personal Board of Directors as 6 – 8 people that connect with me in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A Subject Matter Expert

    • Someone that knows my subject area inside out. A person I can learn technical and job-related skills from. A real expert in the field.

 

  • The no BS advisor

    • We all need someone who gives it to you straight. Someone who’s opinion comes with no BS. They’ll tell you how they see it, whether it is uncomfortable for you or not. Often a great way to get the feedback that others are too scared to give you.

 

  • A super-fan

    • Some people just like you. They might like the way you work, or your attitude, or you just click. It’s always good to have a positive fan on your Personal Board of Directors. They’re handy for spreading that positive message about you and for selling your achievements.

 

  • A critic

    • While your super-fan will tell you all the things you do well, it’s good to balance that out with someone who will let you know where you’re going wrong. They might seem negative, but if they’re spotting flaws that you are missing then they’re extremely valuable. Obviously attitude is key here; you want feedback to be constructive.

 

  • The connector

    • We all know someone who seems to know everyone! They’re all over your social feeds, all over forums and events. Their name crops up everywhere and they seem to get all the info on what’s going on. It’s great to be close to someone who has this profile. They’re able to connect you with people from all over the place and they open so many doors. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the network.

 

  • Someone from Generation-Not-You

    • Your perspective on life is profoundly influenced by your generation. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. I like my Personal Board of Directors to feature someone from another generation. Be they younger, or older, they see things through a whole new lens and as such can offer an invaluable opinion.

 

  • The non-work advisor

    • I find it useful to have an advisor that I don’t share any real work connection with. Maybe they share the same hobby as you, or have similar life challenges, the non-work advisor can offer unique commentary that you can use to make real progress.

 

Finally I like to think how I can act as someone else’s board member. Maybe you’ll have a mutual arrangement with some of your own advisors? But do consider how your own skills can be of use to acquaintances at work. The recipient might not even realize you could be of use. So offer!

You’ll probably already have some of these roles already filled, maybe without even realizing it. And just like a real company, there will be turnover, hirings and firings, and maybe the odd scandal, but the group will undoubtedly provide a great deal of collective value.  One thing is for sure, your Personal Board of Directors will provide a continuous fire-hose of actionable feedback and advice, that you can use to shape your career for the better. Don’t rely on the usual feedback channels, go out and get hiring!

Regards, Paul