Happy Valentine, 2014

Posted by: heather

Do you, like so many people and organizations, wait for things to be good—however you define it—before you’ll share love in the form of appreciation, kudos, encouragement, generosity, a smile, or even your time? Do you believe that people don’t need praise just for “doing their jobs” or that feedback is what you tell people when they are doing things wrong? Well, this Valentine is especially for you.

I know well the temptation to fix what seems broken or to improve performance by focusing on what is missing. Yet experience and research show that focusing on what is working builds effectiveness faster AND generates happier colleagues, workers, family members and friends. That’s why “success breeds success” and “what we appreciate appreciates”. The disciplines of positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, appreciative intelligence, and neuroscience demonstrate that focus on positive possibility and accomplishment unleashes far more energy and intrinsic motivation than does the focus on the negative, which yields fear and passivity.



Try an experiment. Spend a day (or a week!) looking for what is already working. See what effect it has on you. See how much you’ve likely taken for granted. What difference does it make to notice that the lights came on when you flipped the switch? Or that your luggage arrived on time after a plane transfer? Or that all the staff showed up despite bad weather? Or that people worked together hard to pull off the difficult meeting? [See Giving Thanks post.]

Next, try sharing your thoughts with others. What happens when you acknowledge out loud and publicly, the contributions staff made to the meeting or the project? How about thanking people for their commitment? Or telling them why you enjoy working with them? [See Appreciation post.]

There’s not likely any danger in going overboard. Most leaders are way too stingy with praise to be concerned about overdoing it. You could likely increase the amount of praise many times and not come close to too much. In fact, evidence suggests the ideal ratio of appreciation to correction is five to one. Yes, really.

One caveat—be sincere. Authentic appreciation counts. Be sure you mean it. This is not something to fake but rather something to genuinely feel. Insincerity is as transparent as authenticity and just as powerful, in the wrong direction.

Thanks to the clients, colleagues and students who allow me to work for ambitious and meaningful social change. You inspire me with your courage and commitment, your willingness to see what is possible and make it happen. 

May you generate all the love that you’d like to shine back at you!