There isn’t a conference I attend or a book that I read that does not bring up the importance of appreciation. It’s critical to everything: employee engagement, marriage, child rearing, influencing others and business success. Appreciation is the root to success in all things. But where is it? Dig into your pockets and see if you have had your full load of appreciation today. It’s doubtful, though. Unfortunately, it’s the road less traveled. Showing appreciation is that disappearing path in the woods that is covered in brush and pyracantha. Most just don’t bother.
When I was younger, my mother cooked for my family every night, without fail. My father complimented her on her cooking prowess every night, without fail. There we were, the five of us, sitting at the table as a family and with the first bite, my dad always said, “Hmm, honey, this is good.” This could be part of the reason she cooked every night. She knew she would be appreciated.
Dale Carnegie, Tom Rath, Marshall Goldsmith, Stephen Covey, Gary Chapman and Patrick Lencioni (plus many others) have all touted the benefits of appreciation. And the benefits are countless. So let me give you a few pointers on how to start down that road.
1. Notice. You are going to need to pay attention to the world around you. Awareness of what is going on, or not going as the case, may be is the first step. Did your son actually put all his clothes away without any hesitation? Did your husband mow the lawn or finally replace that light bulb in the bedroom? Has your assistant updated that monthly report you haven’t looked at in three months without fail? If you aren’t paying attention, you will not have the opportunity to appreciate.
2. Value. It’s the little things that matter. The chore I hate the most in my life is emptying the garbage. It’s a little thing. It takes all of 3 minutes to haul the garbage bag out to the trashcan , but I loathe doing it. So when I run across an emptied garbage can, it is a gift. If the implementation team worked extra hours over the weekend to make the new software seamless first thing on Monday morning, it is a gift. If I value it as a gift, then I know I will appreciate it. My dad valued a hot, home cooked meal and he showed his appreciation.
3. Spontaneous. Appreciation is not very effective if you drag your feet before you give appreciation. OK, so for a wedding gift, I think the etiquette books give you up to a year—not true with the receptionist’s new haircut. If you wait on complimenting her for, well, a year, it turns out to be kind of pointless. If you love that color blouse on someone, tell them. If you just realized that the dishwasher was emptied by the dishwasher elf (…the only person in my house that would do that is my dear sweet lovable husband), make sure you thank them (him).
4. Gossip. There is nothing better than to hear that someone else spoke highly of you. This happened to me this week and, frankly, prompted me to write this post. A colleague of mine met, by happenstance, a Rotary friend of mine. The colleague told me how my Rotary friend had been singing my praises as a Rotarian. Wow. If that isn’t the best appreciation to get…through a little gossip.
5. Park it. Your ego, that is. If you are worried about getting a compliment in return, this will not work. If you come strutting in to the office with your new Jimmy Choo wedges, and start working your way down cubicle row complimenting everyone’s shoes. It will be obvious that it is more about you than them. The appreciation faucet works best if it’s running in one direction…and that is towards others with no expectation of anything in return. If you don’t park your ego, it could appear as if you are not sincere.
6. Bask in it. This is going to feel good. Being an appreciator is like being a ray of sunshine. You never know who you are going to run into that you get to shine light on for but it is really gratifying. Paying it forward with one compliment at time.
So go out there and take a few steps down the road of appreciation. See how many steps you can take each day.
What has your dad taught you?