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How well do you THANK your team?

BY Michelle McQuaid

At our core, we all have the same basic psychological needs for respect, value, and appreciation. Yet, the diversity in how, when, and where we would like these needs to be met can make the task of ensuring adequate rewards and recognition challenging for any leader.

New international psychosocial standards note that people can feel unappreciated when:

  • Leaders fail to provide enough positive and constructive advice.
  • There is an inequity in rewards and recognition due to favoritism or discrimination.
  • People take credit for other people’s work without consequence.
  • Formal performance reviews and development conversations are limited.
  • There is no structural recognition program in a workplace.
  • People are not being paid fairly.

Our research at The Leaders Lab has found that inadequate reward and recognition can leave people feeling demotivated, disengaged, and less willing to go the extra mile. It can also create a negative workplace culture.

So, what can busy leaders do better to ensure their teams member know they are appreciated?

Dr. David Cooperrider and his colleagues have found that, unfortunately, most workplaces tend to spend approximately 80% of their time focused on fixing weaknesses (what’s not working), and only about 20% of their time building on strengths (what is working). This can make it difficult to recognize and reward people’s good work and can undermine their safety, wellbeing, and performance.

For example, studies have found that low-performing teams share nearly twice as much negative feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, high performing teams share nearly six times more positive feedback than average teams.

To make it easier for leaders to provide strengths-focused appreciative feedback, we suggest they THANK their team members by:

  • Track – What is the positive impact you’ve seen this person’s work having recently on others? How might they be making work or life easier or better for you, their colleagues, their clients, or others? Try to be specific about the positive difference you’ve noticed.
  • Highlight – What is the effort and/or outcomes you’ve seen them taking responsibility for to have this positive impact? What can you see them learning, doing, and/or delivering that is making this positive difference that you value? This doesn’t just have to be results, even if the desired outcomes haven’t been achieved, the effort is what can be built upon.
  • Appreciate – What strengths – the things they are good at and enjoy doing – can you see being used to make this effort and/or outcomes possible? Strengths represent people’s neurological superpowers, so it is essential we can spot these in each other. If you’re not sure what their strengths are, use the VIA Character Strengths poster to help you. Alternatively, ask your team member: “What are you good at and enjoy doing that made this possible?”
  • Nurture – How can these strengths be built on? What can they continue doing to deliver more of this kind of positive impact? Are there any development suggestions you can offer about how to avoid overplaying their strengths (i.e., perseverance verging towards stubbornness or kindness verging towards people-pleasing) or underplaying them (i.e., curiosity leading to complacency or bravery leading to aversion) that could help improve their performance?
  • Kindle – What support might they need/want? Are there any appropriate opportunities for on-the-job learning, mentoring, coaching, or training that might help them to continue to build on their strengths and grow their positive impact? Ask them: “Is there any support we can provide that might help you continue to do this kind of valuable work for us?”

For a podcast with practical examples of how the best leaders thank their teams, click here.

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