Commit to a Culture of Appreciation

by Judith Umlas

this post originally appeared at ATD.

Once you see the joy and vitality that appreciation, acknowledgment, and gratitude engender in all stakeholders, you will want to find ways to create a culture of appreciation at your office, in your family, and throughout your community. There are so many simple, yet effective ways to create this culture: through dialogue, focus, and reminders, for example. Make it part of your team’s mission to incorporate the 5 Cs of acknowledgment in meetings and through general practice. I know of numerous people who post the 5 Cs on their office walls and read them every day, as reminders before they begin work. This shows true commitment.

The Whole Foods way

A simple way that Whole Foods maintains its culture is to end all meetings in “appreciations.” Does this feel awkward or uncomfortable to the team members? Not at all! They said they couldn’t imagine having a meeting without them! We can start this practice early, too, with our young children. We at IIL call this journey one of going from “Great Kids to Grateful Leaders.” You can see a short video about this, including excerpts from the interview with Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods.

Michelle’s commitment to acknowledgment

Another example of this kind of commitment occurred with a class I led recently at a large global company. Michelle, the person who had brought me in, sent this message to all who attended:

“Let’s start a grateful leadership movement! I want to hear your stories of putting this to use!”

This was Michelle’s creative, committed way of ensuring grateful leadership would become an ingrained part of the culture of appreciation that was beginning to flourish within her workplace. Below is an excerpt from one response that she shared with me:

“RE: Follow up from Grateful Leadership Course

Hello all! I know not all of you were in the same session of Grateful Leadership as I, but I had to share my follow-up story. During the class, I mentioned that I had always wanted to thank a former teacher for the guidance she gave me, but attempts to get in contact with her in the past had failed.

As soon as we took our next break, someone in the class called me over and immediately initiated the search. By the end of the next day, she had found and contacted my former teacher. I absolutely could not believe that I would be able to talk to my teacher again after more than 20 years. At this point, my nerves started to get to me a little bit. Some of the people in the class shared their own stories with me, and the class overall gave me the confidence to get past the embarrassment and pass on the acknowledgment that I had waited so long to give. There were a few attempts to call her before I finally got through and talked to her.

After being so unsure of what I would say to her, we ended up talking for more than a half hour. She remembered not only my class, but my family as well after all these years and all the students she had…She stressed how wonderful it feels to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life in some way, no matter how big or small the impact.

After all of this, I really want to acknowledge Avery, Meg, and Sam for sharing experiences and helping to build my confidence and give me the push to move forward. I absolutely have to acknowledge Jessica for finding my teacher. She volunteered to do this right away and ran with it. I was completely blown away! Thank you so much! And finally, I have to thank Judy for this class. There are a lot of classes offered here, but this is one that I would recommend to absolutely everyone, whether she is a leader or not. This class will change not only your work life, but your personal life as well!

Best regards, Katie Horrocks”

A call to commitment

Here is my invitation to you: Find someone from your past to acknowledge in a profound and generous way. You might have to be a bit of a detective to find them, but we can see from Katie’s example how much the effort pays off—for both the giver and receiver of the acknowledgment.

Start putting the 5 Cs to work today! Your colleagues and you will most certainly reap the rewards.