Appreciation… You Must Give to Receive
The first time I truly realized the importance of appreciation in a team setting was right after I had emerged from one of my first and, most challenging, firefighting experiences. The visibility was zero, the heat was extreme, and I was the firefighter operating the nozzle that delivered the quenching water that knocked down the flames.
With my low air alarm sounding, I emerged from the apartment building’s second floor hallway with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I will never forget standing on that fire escape balcony and looking out over the fire scene.
There were fire engines and fire trucks, firefighters rushing about, and various fire hoses crisscrossing each other to resemble spaghetti on a dinner plate – all reflecting a major human endeavor to stop a fire out-of-control. As I looked on, I was thinking, “All of this effort, and I was the only one who actually extinguished the fire!”
I shared my observation with a very experienced member of my team, the engineer – who was busy tending to his many pumping tasks that allowed all of those hose lines to receive plenty of water. He looked at me, and with sweat rolling down his face, replied in a matter-of-fact way, “Hey kid, you took a beating in there for sure… you held up your part of the operation… good job. Just remember one thing, without all of these other things going-on you wouldn’t have been successful.”
This lesson stayed with me and changed how I viewed the importance of appreciation, and that in order to receive it – we must first give it. I had made the mistake of being so impressed with my own contribution, that I had overlooked what so many others had done, like this engineer, to make our team successful.
While working in business, I had an employee who did not report directly to me, but he was part of my operational team. Whenever we spoke, he would take the opportunity to let me know all of the things that he was accomplishing, including the “fact” that he was doing more than others.
The first time this happened, my initial thought was to work with his first level supervisor and encourage him to start showing more appreciation to everyone on his team. The next thing I needed to do was to explain to this employee that everyone must meet our standards, and that I truly appreciated his contributions and how much he cared about doing his best.
I also informed him that others are accomplishing things that he wasn’t aware of, and that our team is successful because of all these individual contributions. I closed our discussion by explaining that we all need to show appreciation for the value that everyone contributes because individually we can’t know or do it all – but collectively, as a team, we can.
The need for leaders to promote this culture by actively sharing the successes of each team member, with the entire team, is fulfilled by demonstrating the act of giving appreciation in order to receive appreciation. Teams that routinely show each other appreciation are teams that will experience a feeling of being appreciated. This will result in fewer people problems, higher morale, and greater successful outcomes.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. When individuals, teams, and entire organizations learn to give sincere appreciation – the appreciation that returns comes in the way of a positive workplace, a motivated workforce, and a greater success for all.