I was listening to my favorite podcast, the Ted Radio Hour, the other day as I was walking my dog. I love this podcast because they select a topic and then grab snippets of Ted Talks on that topic to give a variety of perspectives. That particular episode was called “Approaching with Kindness.” I am compelled to share a few things that struck me:
- People have a natural propensity towards skepticism or optimism (this can be measured by the Hogan Assessment). It may be harder for those who have a naturally skeptical nature to practice appreciation.
- We may have heard about the benefits of appreciation or gratitude that include warding off depression, sleeping better, eating better, and feeling better but it may be hard to know how to do it in an authentic way.
- Mike Robbins, a former baseball player, called out that failing to appreciate what we have while we have it is natural. He noted that there is a difference between recognition and appreciation. Recognition is positive feedback based on results or performance. It is finite because it’s based on a particular performance moment and, to be the most meaningful, it must come from the top down. Appreciation is much more expansive. Mike gives an example from his baseball career as a pitcher. If a pitcher is struggling, the manager comes up to the mound, takes the ball, and sends the pitcher to the bench. It’s a very public failure. When the pitcher gets to the bench, the other players stay away. Mike shared that in those moments if just one team mate would have come over and asked “is there is anything I can do to support you?” it would have reminded him he is more than the failure he just experienced and that he is appreciated despite the failure.
- Why does this matter in business? Studies on what motivates productivity show that when people were recognized, they were 23% more productive. But when people felt valued and cared for, they were 43% more productive. Just from recognizing the value of the person.
- Another speaker talked about a study that showed that incivility makes people less motivated: 66% cut back work efforts, 80% lose time worrying about what happened, and 12% leave their jobs. Cisco took those numbers and estimated that incivility was costing them $12 million per year.
- I love neuroscience, so this point jumped out. Research shows that when one person expresses kindness to another and it’s received by that person, it raises the serotonin level for both people. Kindness is received when the person acknowledges it and does not fight it, cut themselves down, or say the same back to the giver.
- We can ask for the praise we need. We don’t do it because we feel vulnerable asking for what we need. This process provides insight into us and could be neglected or abused or your needs could actually be met.
- You can show this appreciation and civility through simple actions. These can include smiling and saying hello in the hallway, listening fully when people are talking, thanking people authentically for what they do, and asking how you can help.
As I think about appreciation, I can’t help but think about what happens when people don’t feel cared for and the emotional toll that can take. A good example of this is from the movie with Mel Gibson called What Women Want. It’s a romantic comedy in which Mel’s character was a chauvinistic advertising leader who gets the gift of hearing women’s thoughts. One women (Erin) who works in Mel’s firm feels unappreciated, alone, and unseen. Mel becomes aware of her when he hears her suicidal thoughts. Because he “sees” her, he can intervene. It makes me wonder how many people are in our offices who are feeling “unseen” and we just aren’t aware of it. What if they are reminded that they are more than the failure they are feeling?
A real-life example involves a 19-year-old man, Kevin Hines. In 2000 he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. He shares his story in an effort to save lives. Kevin explains that if one person would have noticed his tears and would have asked him “Are you okay? Or is there something wrong? Can I help you?” he would not have gone through with it. Instead, a tourist approached him and asked him to take her photo. Kevin took the photo and moments later, he jumped. Appreciation, and valuing people for the human that they are, is not only good for the workplace, it’s good for society.
I encourage you to try to do one simple thing to appreciate someone in your life today and see what happens. Send me an email, I’d love to hear how it goes.