This is part 6 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.
This is supposed to be a post on “how to” appreciate your employees, as this is part of the equation that encourages them to stay with you. However, appreciation is kind of a funny thing.
You see, we can (and will) talk about how to show your appreciation, but to have appreciation for something or someone, you have to genuinely be appreciative of that person or thing.
Here’s what I mean… the definition of appreciated is: to be grateful or thankful for.
I don’t believe you can fake those. You know the things you are grateful or thankful for in your life – in most cases you are naturally compelled to express how you feel about them. If you don’t appreciate it, you don’t express the gratitude.
So if you don’t truly appreciate your employees, you can’t genuinely appreciate them.
This makes me think we can take this in two different directions:
- If you don’t appreciate your employees, how can you develop an appreciation for them?
- If you do appreciate your employees but don’t know how to show it, how can you show it?
Let’s take the first (and more difficult one) first. You don’t appreciate your employees, meaning you are not genuinely grateful or thankful for them. My question would be, why?
These are the folks who are literally running your business. They have contact with your guests, they are your brand messengers, and they represent you to the masses. Sure they can also be a bit of a pain… coming in late, goofing off and basically not taking you or the job you are providing them very seriously. It can be hard to be thankful for those folks.
But maybe we’ve got this backwards. Maybe we’ve got to make the first investment, rather than waiting for them to show us a reason to be thankful. For some who are caught up in the “entitlement of millenials” mindset, you might be digging in, refusing to give in to their demands. “They think the world owes them everything, well I’m gonna teach them a lesson!”
Really? The only lesson here (that you probably won’t learn) is that you screwed up in how you lead your employees. Without genuine appreciation, you will continue to think that the entitled generation just jump ship when they don’t get what they want… like taking their ball and going home.
But, could it be that your lack of genuine gratefulness for their contributions to your company have created a negative environment for your employees? After all, our thoughts drive our behaviors, so whether you think so or not, your attitude is more likely what is driving people away than their flaky disposition.
We’ll let that sink in…
So now let’s look at the other side of the coin… you DO appreciate your employees, but may not know the best way to show it.
I would start with what you find valuable regarding appreciation. Of course everyone is different, but understanding what means something to you is a good start.
Do you like it when your Supervisor asks your opinion? How about when he/she shares important company information that helps you understand where you stand and where the company is going? How about when they just come up to you ask a little bit about how your life outside of work is going?
Or what about when they remember something you told them weeks or months before? When I was at Universal, our dog passed away. I told my boss and he said, “I’m so sorry, how old was Lucy?”
He and I hadn’t talked about Lucy for at least 2 or 3 months, in fact I only remember mentioning her name once or twice before. But he remembered her name, which means he was listening. I felt appreciated.
If some of those hit a chord with you, they’ll likely hit a chord with your employees. Especially being listened to.
More formally, providing meaningful feedback and recognition of accomplishments go a long way to show people how grateful you are that they are at work, doing the things that help your business succeed.
Below is an example of something that happened to me when I was 15 years old, and it has stuck with me ever since. If you have been in any of my leadership classes, the example may sound familiar, but it’s a great example of how to show appreciation in a meaningful way.
This situation happened between myself and Dave Smalley, who was the GM of the grocery store I was working at during high school:
Dave: Matt, I just wanted to let you know how you make my job easier. Whenever you are here, you are so good at getting all of the carriages out of the parking lot, and that really helps us in a couple of ways. First, we’ve had to repaint some cars that got scratched by carriages left in the parking lot, but because you clear the lot so well, we haven’t had to do that recently. Plus, when there are more carriages in the store, customers have more room for more groceries, so they tend to buy a little more. Those two things really help us out. Thanks!
How could you NOT feel appreciated after that? It was specific to me and the situation and delivered sincerely. And of course, that drove me to head back out into the lot because I didn’t want to be thanked for something I wasn’t doing.
And as great as the words were, what you don’t get from reading the transcript was that Dave came down to my area to thank me, he didn’t call me up to the office. He also shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and smiled while he said it. It was genuine.
And I think that’s the most important part of the appreciation topic – being genuine. Like I said above, I don’t think you can fake this. If you don’t get it quite right the first time, if you really mean it, people will notice. They won’t get caught up in the mechanics of what you say, but rather the emotion and sincerity of how you say it.
If there was ever a time for a quote from Maya Angelou to wrap up a topic, this is it.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And that’s the thing about appreciation. We FEEL appreciated or we don’t. Hopefully your employees do.
Next up: Valued
Thanks for reading!
About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.