As fulfilling, exciting and creative as work sometimes can be, it can also make us intense, stressed, deeply fearful and self-absorbed. This would typically happen when we see everything from the perspective of competition for scarce resources and opportunities. We want desperately to be recognised but we don’t recognise others. We want praise but don’t praise others. The more responsibilities and challenges you have as you advance in your career life, the more likely that you would feel anxious about your performance and reputation, particularly in the eyes of those who have the power to give you more responsibilities and better rewards. It is in this type of scenario where leadership disappears. As a leader you would know that you are more energised by a happy team where everybody feels recognised than trying to make headway in isolation and in constant competition.

The type of recognition that real leaders give is not provisional as if part of a transaction: ‘I can recognise what you have done here but be warned that if you don’t keep it up, there will be consequences.’ Giving recognition to team members as a leadership trait is never devoid of real and honest appreciation of the person. It starts with something as basic as recognising another person’s presence, making eye contact and showing the will to engage. Even in group settings you want to do your best to recognise the individuals present by making personal contact with them. To recognise a team member for work done on a specific deliverable is expected. The more detail you give in terms of the value of the work done, the more motivational it will be to the person.

What is even more powerful is recognition and appreciation of behaviours, attitudes, personal qualities or talents that are demonstrated by people. Examples would be a positive attitude, specific talents, work ethic, ethical behaviour, loyalty, team approach, innovative thinking, creativity, caring for others, humour, selfless service, support of decisions taken and leadership. You can be assured that you will grow personally the more observant and appreciative you become of the good qualities of others, and the more you freely share with them your observations, individually and especially in the team context. This is how you build a team culture that becomes contagious. It accelerates the time needed for a new member to get comfortable and productive. It drives out attitudes of blaming and fault seeking and it supports effective resolution of conflict when needed. As numerous research studies have shown, the above is by far more important reasons to feel recognised than monetary rewards. If you do all of the above with sincerity, how will it be possible to remunerate unfairly?

Appreciation can make a day – even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.

Margaret Cousins