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In my previous post, I discussed that “being a hero for your team” is about five different elements, as shown in the cover picture. Heroic leaders practice them every day that they become a normal habit for them; a habit engraved in how they think, act and react.

In this post, let’s explore together the first element of being a hero a little bit more.

What are the benefits of showing a genuine appreciation?

The first behavior is to always show a genuine appreciation. When it is sincere, appreciation is a powerful tool that juices up the energy of the individual and the team; it increases productivity, employee engagement, creativity and loyalty. Appreciation creates a difference in someone’s life, firing up a spark in their heart to go above and beyond for you.

Showing appreciation creates a trusted relationship between individuals, giving them a safe feeling to receive feedback openly and to give upward & peer feedback as well. This is a great influential benefit to any leader. In future posts, I will discuss that it is crucial for heroic leaders to have a constant state of self-awareness - one input is the ability to gather candidate upward and peer feedback.

Showing genuine appreciation to your teams will show them that you care about them, and in return they will repay that care by providing their maximum performance and by giving you the feedback you need to improve personally and succeed professionally; getting that feedback, honest ones, are very hard to extract from young talents if you do not create a safe and well-appreciated relationship with them.

How can you show genuine appreciation to the teams you lead?

It is key to understand that appreciation does not stop at saying thank you and it is not about only celebrating someone’s success; you can show appreciation when a project fails or when you have a tough conversation about someone’s lack of performance; appreciation can be found in happy and tough moments.

Genuine appreciation is about having a full understanding of a situation to celebrate or calibrate someone’s performance. Truly caring over the person well-being and success is what makes your appreciation a genuine one. Being genuine is about having a tailored appreciation plan for each team and for everyone you lead. A one-size fit all behavior means that the leader is not truly genuine, but they are only going through the motion and checking the box.

Showing genuine appreciation is a very hard work. It requires the leader to closely be connected to everyone they lead. Heroic leader needs to understand what the team members aspire to achieve in their personal & professional life, what makes them feel happy & content, what they love & hate about the work they do, what their strengths are, where they can improve, what impact they have on their teams and their clients, and what difference they make to others outside their close circle.

Heroic leaders are great observers and they take lots of notes to remember how to touch the heart of each person individually. Being consistent at giving genuine appreciation is tougher than anything else because it requires the application of a very complex formula.

Giving a genuine appreciation is the mix of giving the right appreciation, at the right time, and through the right channel. Let’s explore each of these inputs of the equation – the what, when and the how:

  • Giving the right appreciation (what): Right appreciation is about giving the appropriate feedback that touches both the individual and the team collectively. Each one of us are inspired and motivated differently. This difference makes us stronger but it creates pressure on the leader to put the effort into tailoring the feedback they are giving to each person; for example, some people are motivated by getting the high bonus, others by more flexibility at work or by getting a thank you unexpectedly or by a combination of all of these. Also, people feel appreciated when leaders give them the time to map out a career plan with them. The idea is that showing appreciation must come from a thoughtful place; heroic leaders master the art of developing an appreciation plan or a package that truly relates to the individual.

  • At the right time (when): Timing is critical, and leaders always give their appreciation timely. Timely appreciation is like putting the extra firewood to prevent the fire from going out at the very last minute. Timing can vary depending on the situation. It can be at an end of the project, daily, or every week. However, since heroic leaders are great observers and closely relate to their teams, they can notice the signs of the dying fire and they proactively refuel the joy and inspiration needed.

  • Through the right channel (how): Since everyone is different, the communication channel must be different. It is key to understand that genuine appreciation is about making a positive impact on someone’s career by inspiring them to achieve more than their wildest dreams. The “how” in the equation is key because saying thank you vs. writing a thank you note is different; and I am not saying here one is better than the other all the time, but one is better than the other in some situations. The same thing goes to giving a tough feedback, sometimes to make someone feel appreciated and safe, it can be an in-person discussion or an email plus a chat or a phone call; it will depend on the appreciation plan tailored to the individual.

Bring it all together,

Heroic leaders understand that there is a genius in everyone, and they work to celebrate that genius in every one of us. They are always empathetic, attentive, understanding and compassionate. They understand the value everyone brings. They work closely with their teams on a regular basis to see them in action.

Heroic leaders understand that appreciation is not about making someone feeling good about a job being completed but it is more about creating a safe environment for people. This safe and appreciation feeling will inspire the individuals to bring their self-best and to go above and beyond, while finding the joy in their work.

After we go through the different other behaviors in greater details, we will then explore different examples and situations how these behaviors are applied to fuel the team’s happiness and engagement, which in return will strengthen your team’s performance while supporting your business missions.
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