Why Appreciation Matters So Much

By Dan Nielsen



Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project and author of Be Excellent at Anything, addressed a critical leadership principle in a recent Harvard Business Review blog.  No leader who desires leadership excellence can ignore this critical success factor:


“Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it


The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.


Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing. When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.


So why is it that openly praising or expressing appreciation to other people at work can so easily seem awkward, contrived, mawkish and even disingenuous?


The obvious answer is that we’re not fluent in the language of positive emotions in the workplace. We’re so unaccustomed to sharing them that we don’t feel comfortable doing so. Heartfelt appreciation is a muscle we’ve not spent much time building, or felt encouraged to build.


Oddly, we’re often more experienced at expressing negative emotions — reactively and defensively, and often without recognizing their corrosive impact on others until much later, if we do at all. 


That’s unfortunate. The impact of negative emotions — and more specifically the feeling of being devalued — is incredibly toxic. As Daniel Goleman has written, ‘Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are almost as powerful as those to our very survival.’


In the workplace itself, researcher Marcial Losada has found that among high-performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighs that of negative feedback by a ratio of 5.6 to 1. By contrast, low-performing teams have a ratio of .36 to 1.”


This subject is absolutely critical for all leaders, including all healthcare leaders!  Next week, we will examine the specific steps Tony Schwartz suggests for sincerely and effectively using appreciation in building higher-performing and more sustainable teams.


Copyright © 2012 by Dan Nielsen

Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership  –  www.nihcl.com

Founder, America’s Healthcare Leaders  –  www.americashealthcareleaders.com

Cell 214-695-1292

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