On the weight and lift of appreciation

May the 4th Appreciation Session

Recession and rumors of recession. Not quite as biblical in its tone as the original reference but it is hard to miss the growing clamor around the job market. Some think that technologists (developers, infrastructure, cloud, IT professionals) will continue to be in high demand, others say that along with the trendy terms like Great Resignation, the Great Regret, we may also see the Great Tech Rationalization. Essentially a down-turn and re-sizing of technology appetites of growth to the realities of a struggling market. Its a big topic around my house with children, nieces and nephews, kids of friends and others entering the job market for the first time.

I have no magic crystal ball as to where we may ultimately end up but I know one thing is certain: Good talent and hard work is always in demand. Especially in technology fields. Understanding where that talent is in your organization, where its not, and who moves things forward can only truly be understood by getting in yourself and personally observing things. This is not a thing a leader or manager can outsource. You have to be in it, (and to to see it), in order to win it. I also believe that your work culture is a huge part of that motivation and can have huge impacts on energy and output levels. One of the key accelerants to this is something that is not magical on its surface, but has the ability to almost singularly transform an organization.

I am of course talking about plain old recognition and appreciation.

For some its a corny old concept. A vestige of hippies and flower children. Modern thought is all about dashboards and monitoring performance and being draconian on minimum standards. All that touchy feely stuff is for art majors. It has no place in a modern organization. I guess that may be true for those who lack any kind of EQ or who have been trained to suppress such things and I certainly didnt mean any offense to art majors. 🙂

For me – I have seen it light up an organization, create a sense of mission and purpose, and generally spread good vibes. Good vibes create energy. Energy is catchy. Catchy creates buy-in. Buy-in changes the world. We all want to change the world.

That reminds me – Where did I put my copy of the Beatles White album and my tie-dye?

May the 4th Appreciation Session
May 4th, D&B Technology Open Mike

My mind goes back recently to one of my last town halls. They are called Open-Mikes. After a short presentation of whatever I want to talk about, we turn the meeting over to entire Technology organization. They can ask me anything they like. There is no dodging the hard questions. Just like there is no dodging the hard answers. I personally believe people would prefer that. If you dont? Well these meetings aren’t mandatory.

The May “Open Mike” was all about recognition and appreciation. To some it was a weird session. After my small formal deck of things to recognize, we opened the floor for folks to thank other individuals, organizations, efforts and more. As you would imagine- there was a bit of a stutter start at the beginning. People aren’t necessarily comfortable in situations like that … but the conversation picked up steam and soon we had feedback, thanks, and appreciation coming in from all corners of the world. By the end of the meeting there was a palpable change in the meeting. People were laughing. Everyone smiling. We ran out of time before running out of acknowledgements.

For those that found their way into the office, my “Ninjaneers” had ensured that all of the offices involved had food (breakfast, lunch or snack depending on time-zone) and other breakouts that ensured that the camaraderie continued throughout the day. Most others just joined in from home.

The Ninjaneer’s are an all volunteer collection of employees who want to create and amplify our go-forward culture. Maybe I will do a post on this concept at some point, but I have been employing this type of booster organization throughout my entire career to great affect. They say culture comes from the top, but I would say it cannot sustain unless you have good foundations, pillars, and supports. That is what the Ninjaneers do.

Regardless, I still receive notes almost weekly about how great that meeting was. People posted about it on Linked-In, I have had it come up in interviews where people have talked to friends and colleagues externally about it and more.

Like it or not, we humans are social animals. We enjoy that social interaction, being a part of something, the recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done. It has weight individually, organizationally, and as a team. Its meaningful. It impacts all of us. It is also light and airy, and lifts us up. It gives us extra energy and inspires more. Understanding that and being able to feed it can drive organizations to greatness. Losing sight of it or ignoring it (in my experience) results in poor performance and non-motivated teams.

I was inspired to write this today because of a wonderful note I received being put on the cc: line of an email from one person to a larger team on a hard fought set of work getting accomplished. The response from the team was heart-felt and it lifted everyone up. Including me. Culture matters.


8 thoughts on “On the weight and lift of appreciation

  1. Great post Mike and really thought provoking! I think my organization could use some of this and I will “borrow” some of your ideas presented here for my teams. Please keep the blog posts coming!

  2. I’ve to admit that, despite I’m not doing it too much, I’m a big fan of “appreciation”.

    One important bit for that is ensure that you, as leader, really hears and sees who is in front of you and really understand what she/he is achieving. Only then you can appreciate the effort, the help she/he is giving, the contribution. And in some cases, the appreciation is not because he helps the company to save 1M dollar, it’s because he’s showing up every day even when his personal circumstances are really hard.
    Appreciation is very important but we still have the old fashioned performance evaluations there and it’s biasing the appreciation. We tend to appreciate the guy saving 1M dollar because it’s easy. Everyone can see it. There’s very little effort required to send this gratitude. On the other hand, the guy saving one million times one dollar is not seen nor heard and it’s labelled as the average performer. It’s hard to see him and nobody is listening.
    Leaders in the organization must improve in this area and not only pay attention to the easy ones. Ask questions. Listen more. See more. Engage more (1:1 with someone and you’re replying texts in your mobile and checking your email in your laptop? Really?)
    Appreciation is great when is the result of the true hearing and seeing. This also has a long lasting effect. When it’s an a generic appreciation (“Thank you to my team for delivering the project in Q3”) then it sounds empty and it’s just a sugar rush leaving nothing after a short while.

  3. Mike,

    At Kyndryl, we are encouraged to thank our coworkers with anything from formal cash awards, to thank you notes that are also sent to management. It goes a long way to fostering a positive working environment. It also can be used in our every day life. Quick story. I shop at the grocery store, MarketBasket. After a long wait in line, a young man, who couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17 rang my groceries up. He was delightful. After my groceries were in my cart, I went to the service desk and asked to speak to a store manager. The store manager came down and I could see that he was waiting for my complaints – you can just see it in body language. But instead, I shared the name of the young man and told him what an asset he was to the store. The manager’s face lit up. He told me how very much he appreciated my feedback and the time that I took to share it with him. Lift and appreciation!

  4. So how does one find out more background on the ninja-neers concept…inquiring minds and such 😉

  5. TL;DR. Hey! You know I was an art major!!!?? Ok maybe I did read it. Actually a very good read and I really miss those Open Mikes!

    1. I love it! The queen of TL;DR has returned. I always knew you secretly read those weekly notes. I hope everything is going great for you!

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