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.

What Happens to a Team without a Clear Purpose?

Photo by Christian Guthier

Photo by Christian Guthier

Have you ever seen what happens to a development team when they lose their Product Owner?  That person who tells them the direction of the product and inspires them with a vision of the future?  When he/she is replaced by someone new who doesn’t understand the product deeply and have a vision for it?

We know that organizations that fall apart can almost always trace their demise to a deterioration of their core – People or Purpose

Like a plant that is lacking sunlight, the team’s behavior starts wilting—they’re falling into bad habits or complacency.  The team struggles.  Conflicts happen.  A mature development team needs a Product Owner to feed them goals through communication and collaboration.  Without a Product Owner, the team is lacking purpose or its purpose is unclear. 

Purpose: one of the three intrinsic motivators.

RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

What is your development team’s purpose?  Is it to deliver a product that fulfills its vision?  Does the team have its own motto or mission statement?  Where does it come from?

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.

Leadership Link Round-Up

Photo by steve_lynx

Photo by steve_lynx

Today's theme is: Praise, Rewards, and Motivating Others.

Linking Agile to HR Theory - A look at the Agile Manifesto and various theories about people and teams.  By reviewing the people side of projects promoted by Agile, the embodiment of many established good principles are evident. Projects rarely fail because the technology does not work; projects usually fail because of people issues. Finding ways to improve the people side of projects, even if they appear counterintuitive, pays huge dividends.

For Best Results, Forget the Bonus - Alfie Kohn sums up the motto of the American workplace as, "Do this, and you'll get that."  She goes on to explain the problems with rewards.

The 6 Rules for Rewards - Jurgen Appelo gives us rules for rewards that help avoid the problems with cheating and gaming rules that Kohn pointed out above.

10 Questions and Answers for Managers about Praise -  What is praise, why is it important, and a few simple rules on how to give praise effectively.

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.

Recognizing the Joys

Photo by Jennifer

Photo by Jennifer

Johanna Rothman led an exercise during AYE where each individual plotted his/her career on a timeline; the x-axis represented time and the y-axis represented feelings.  We then formed pairs and talked about our graphs, looking at the highs and lows for commonalities.  Here's a glimpse at mine:

cropped-timeline.png

We noted that everyone's timelines had ups and downs.  By the end, we were writing individual action plans to increase the highs (the joys) in our careers.  I had already started pondering a few days earlier my current career position and where I want it to go, so I found the exercise to be timely.

The exercise reminded me of a blog post I read recently about motivation:

You can’t do great work unless you love what you do. It’s this love that drives your actions.

Look back at all the projects you were proud of finishing. You’ll notice the underlying theme of love behind all of them.

Once you understand how your emotions trigger your motivation you will get a better grasp on your productivity.

Tip #3 from that post suggested keeping an appreciation journal to recognize effort, which I've done in the past.  I'm terrible at keeping up with the practice, but it's helped me get through periods where I initially struggled to identify the impact of my work, and I should probably start journaling again.  I first encountered this kind of journal in Lyssa Adkins's Coaching Agile Teams book, and I remember excitedly writing down how a coworker used the term "agile smell" one day in conversation--I knew I had positive influence!  

Identify the things that bring you joy is essential to increasing those moments in your day-to-day work.

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.

Motivation

Photo by sportsandsocial

Photo by sportsandsocial

If a change agent needs a strong ability to self-motivate, how does one strengthen that skill or capability?  I joined the gym in January, and my motivation was [and is] to be more active.  Because I was overwhelmed by the gym equipment and didn't know where to begin, I signed up for personal training.  I am motivated to go to the gym, but it is my fitness trainer who pushes me to keep running or lifting weights or whatever it is that I'm doing, reminding me that it is harder to start again if I stop.  There are plenty of times when I still stop to catch my breath, but I refocus and get to the end.  And I've noticed over time that I can do more before I feel the urge to stop.  Working to affect change in an organization can feel like we're stretching ourselves and using muscles that haven't been used much recently.  It can leave you feeling breathless and overwhelmed.  But it is our ability to push beyond the pain, to pick ourselves up when we want to stay in our resting position, that makes us strong and gives us an advantage.

My tips for increasing self-motivation:

  1. Know your goal.
  2. Believe in your goal.
  3. Recognize the small accomplishments.
  4. Tell others about your goal and your progress.

How do you stay motivated?  Is motivation a skill you can improve?

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.