Noticing Appreciation Languages at Work

Photo by brian.abeling

Photo by brian.abeling

“Thank you for indulging my recognition.”

I laughed when I saw that text pop-up on my phone. After all, how often does someone recognize and then acknowledge that they expressed appreciation in a way that doesn’t match how you like to receive it? Let’s look at the complicated chain of events happening there:

  1. You did something (because you’re awesome like that)
  2. Person saw what you did and wanted to show appreciation (because they’re a great leader like that)
  3. Person expressed appreciation in the way that felt most genuine to them (+1 for authenticity!)
  4. You realized what they were doing and knew it was an appreciative act even though it didn’t resonate with you (+1 for appreciation awareness)
  5. Person remembered that you prefer a different form of appreciation and sent a message (+1 for relationship awareness)

Many employees feel underappreciated at work. That means step 1 takes place and the other steps might not happen. Actually, it’s possible that steps 2 and 3 occur but due to the appreciation language mismatch, you didn’t realize you were being appreciated. Oh no!

Gifts, words, physical touch, acts of service, quality time—what types of appreciation do you see in your workplace?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Making Dreams Come True

Photo by Allison Pollard

Photo by Allison Pollard

Montreal. I knew I’d have only one day to visit this year as I continued my journey to Cornwall for Agile Coach Camp Canada. After researching things to do and see, I moved on to looking for places to eat. And came across a description of a patisserie that sounded amazing. Intrigued, I looked at their website and fell in love when I read their history page:

MAISON CHRISTIAN FAURE FIRMLY BELIEVES IN THIS QUOTE FROM ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY:
MAKE LIFE A DREAM, AND THIS DREAM, A REALITY.

My intention for 2018 is to dream bigger, so I knew immediately that I had to check this place out in person.

I walked the streets of Old Montreal and found the patisserie. It was almost closing time. I was the only customer. Six macarons to go. I walked outside, sat down near the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, admired the view of the St. Lawrence River, and took a bite of the praline macaron. It was incredible. The only thing in that moment was me enjoying a macaron in the lovely June weather. It was so good that I wanted to share the experience with someone, and I came very close to ordering macarons online and having them shipped to a friend in Texas.

I put down my phone and took another bite of macaron. The texture was perfection in the calm breeze. I smiled. I snapped a photo and tried to text it to a friend before heading off towards my hotel. A patisserie and a quote from Saint-Exupery – what a match!

Any coworkers reading this are probably laughing now because they are well-aware that I am a gift giver. Of course I would be tempted to ship desserts to Texas from Canada because I enjoyed a bite of one! Many a sweet treat has arrived in our office (and a few in our other offices), courtesy of me. It’s my way of prompting mini-celebrations to happen. I think of it as one of my superpowers: the ability to have an amazing thing delivered that sparks happiness throughout a team. A superpower that people really love.

There’s a great ice cream place in Plano—Henry’s Ice Cream—and a coworker mentioned that he thought it would be fun to have them cater an event in our office. He’d shared this idea in the past with others but nothing ever happened. When I heard it, I shared the wisdom of my superpower. And a nudge to do it. He made it come true and surprised the office with the ice cream party he’d been imagining for so long. Another person with the superpower to deliver amazing things that spark happiness!

Imagine if you set a goal just for one day to make life a dream for your team or organization. Envision the bliss across everyone’s faces. See their joy in knowing someone thought of them and their delight as all other concerns cease. Feel the smiles radiating outward as they savor the moment.

You can have that effect on people.

An unexpected kindness. A token of appreciation. An experience to be enjoyed.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Appreciation at Work, Feedback, and Gift Giving Go Hand-in-Hand

Photo by Laura LaRose

Photo by Laura LaRose

Years ago, a colleague encouraged our coaching group to take a quiz to discover our language of appreciation—it’s similar to love languages and applies to work relationships. It was little surprise that my primary language is gifts. A number of the Scrum Masters I’d been coaching had received some kind of token gift from me to express thanks or cheer them on. And quite a few of my Improving coworkers have experienced deliveries of flowers, cookies, balloons, and other items in recognition of their accomplishments and milestones.

Recently I shared an article on social media about anonymous feedback. Feedback is a tricky beast—the word can cause the same panic as a bear suddenly crossing our path. It is often something we dread, whether we are giving feedback or receiving it. I’ve found anonymous or third-party feedback difficult because it creates weirdness in relationships. Where ignorance may have been bliss, there are now eggshells to walk around. My friend Ann-Marie had the most brilliant response to the article:

Giving feedback is giving gifts and it's best to receive gifts in person!

Asking for feedback can be scary, and it’s often considered impolite to ask for gifts… and yet it’s a beautiful metaphor to reframe feedback. If you can tell someone what you want to become or achieve, they’re often happy to help you. Gifts of potential blind spots, words of wisdom, and resources to explore may abound from that opening. Imagine what a gift exchange of feedback could look like! What if you could have a day of feedback gifts to boost you up as if it was your birthday? That sounds amazing.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

How to Communicate and Recognize Appreciation

Photo by jen collins

Photo by jen collins

Cherie and I presented at the UT Dallas Project Management Symposium this week, and it was a lot of fun.  We once again presented Beyond Removing Impediments: Scrum Master as Team Coach and also had the opportunity to do a second session on Motivating People Through the Language of Appreciation.  It was our first time presenting that topic, and the positive feedback was tremendous.  Then again, when you're talking to people for an hour about appreciation, they know how to practice it when you're done.  ;-)

Honestly though, feeling appreciated is rare for many people--70% of employees say they receive no praise at work.  That hurts the individuals and the organization.  People who are undervalued are less likely to go above and beyond at work and they are more likely to leave for another job.  Here's the real kicker: your organization might be trying to show some appreciation for employees, but they are not recognizing it!

Each one of us has certain things that we look for that tell us we are valued by others--different reference points that tell us, “I value and appreciate you.”  When people speak to us in the way that speaks value and appreciation to them--and it is different than they way we say it--we don’t receive the message.  Why?  Because we don’t recognize that they are saying it.  For example, a manager might give an employee a gift card in recognition of his hard work and long hours in completing a project successfully, but the employee sees it as an empty gesture because he would really like someone to tell him how valuable he is to the organization.

We speak different languages of appreciation, and understanding the different languages of appreciation helps others to receive what you are trying to offer them.  If we can understand the language we are expecting to hear and how others might possibly be expressing appreciation and value, then we can both send and perceive the appropriate messages.

The 5 languages of appreciation are:

1.     Quality Time – Quality time includes focused attention and quality conversation.  A person who speaks this language feels valued when they perceive that someone displays a genuine interest in them.  This language focuses on hearing the person receiving the quality time and about participating in the conversation with them.  Quality time also includes a sharing of life together.  So, working side by side or going to lunch together also qualifies as quality time.  

2.     Words of Affirmation – Words of affirmation include specific words of encouragement or praise for accomplishment and for effort.  It includes saying, “thank you.”  Words of affirmation can be given one on one, in front of someone the person views as important (such as a supervisor or the team), or publicly.  This appreciation language focuses on the words being said to the person receiving the words of affirmation, and it is about them and their contributions or character traits that are valuable and appreciated. Can be written, verbal, or in some other format including music, video, etc.  The important thing is the message of praise and encouragement communicated.

3.     Receiving Gifts – Receiving gifts is the vehicle for some individuals that sends the message that says, “You are valuable to me and I thought about you when you weren’t with me because I appreciate you.”  The dollar value of the gift is not what is significant but the emotional thought about the person that drove the gift to be given.  For people who speak this language, the gift becomes tangible evidence that they are valued.  It is a constant reminder that they are appreciated.   

4.     Acts of Service – Acts of service is characterized by helping with tasks that need to be completed.  Some might call this teamwork.  Some key things to remember with acts of service are:

  • Get your own work finished before offering to help someone with theirs
  • Ask before helping
  • Make sure to do it their way if you are going to help
  • Finish what you commit to do and make it clear what you can commit to finish

5.     Physical Contact – Physical contact in the workplace is a touchy subject. (Pardon the pun) The truth is that for some people this is the language that speaks the loudest to them that they are truly valued and appreciated.  The key is to understand what is appropriate and acceptable and to adhere to those guidelines.  Depending on the culture of the organization there will be different guidelines but for most handshakes, knuckle bumps, high-fives, or even a pat on the shoulder are acceptable.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.