Appreciative Leadership Changes People

Appreciative Leadership Changes People

by elainesuess

In the past year, it seems that gratefulness and appreciation have expanded their reach even more so into our leadership lexicon. 

With Adam Grant’s informative and research-based book Give and Take, he notes that “a single act marked by mutual trust and respect will energize both people.”

I have found that to be true.

Positively energizing employees (accent on the positive, as we have all experienced the frustrations of lackluster leaders and negative energizing) through appreciation is part of the recipe that engages them in peak organizational performance, and simply encourages them to keep showing up.

This is not surprising. We can all benefit from knowing our efforts are appreciated, even in cases where the efforts are not Nobel Prize worthy or not directly related to meeting work goals.

For instance, it would be easy to recognize simple efforts like:  An employee taking it upon himself to bring a snack for a hard-working project team; An employee offering helpful feedback to a new team member; Someone cleaning up the lunch room beyond their own place at the table.

Appreciating simple efforts that make up our work days can go a long way.

Several years ago, I asked a group of leaders to give positive, authentic feedback to 2 employees every day for the next month.

When we met again to discuss what happened, they reported the following:

  1. It was hard to do this even though it only took a few minutes of their time.
    • They had to be very intentional about it, and make it a habit.
  2. Employees were surprised to receive the feedback.
    • What does that tell us? Perhaps it was not happening enough?
  3. Appreciating even small employee efforts boosted both the leaders’ and the employees’ moods.
    • Research is clear – when our brains are positive, we’re more creative and productive.
  4. One of the leaders shared that he was at the mall and spotted an employee with friends in tow. He did not expect the employee to approach him, but he did. The employee came up to him, thanked him for the positive feedback and told him “you will see me a changed person.”

Appreciation changes people.

The slight effort it takes to intentionally appreciate others also helps combat negative stress by releasing oxytocin. When we appreciate others, our levels of stress-fighting oxytocin increase, and so do theirs. What a bonus!

One more story.

A client has recently put this appreciative approach into practice. Two authentic appreciations to two people a day. He has reported that his team is now more connected and working more effectively together. He attributes much of this to the appreciation he has been showing as of late.

David Cooperrider says that “what we appreciate, appreciates.” 

Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.


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