I have been re-reading M. Gladwell’s book “Outliers” and have confirmed once again how it truly “takes a village,” not only to raise a child, as Mrs. Clinton wrote in her well known book, but also to reach your human potential. Gladwell contends that “the culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forbearers shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine.”
If we are to succeed in the present business climate, it is imperative to look at the “ecology” of our organizations and finds ways to work together. Research shows that leaders believe we need collaboration skills more than anything else. There is a strong need for developing a supportive community in the workplace if we want to succeed in our present world. I want to suggest today that one of the ways to start building that type of community is through appreciation.
Unfortunately, many of our “forbearers” in organizations have left a legacy of criticism, negativity, and lack of appreciation that tends to breed mistrust, low productivity, high turn-over, and even despair. Many people dread going to work in the morning.
Appreciation, on the other hand, is a powerful way to experience life and encourage others. It is the ability to find, recognize, and take pleasure in the existence of goodness in the physical and social world. Human systems grow in the direction of what is most frequently emphasized. Let’s examine some of the gifts that appreciation brings:
- Clarity. When we use appreciation, seemingly complex situations can be clarified and looked at with new eyes. Instead of feeling discouraged and judged, people can take personal responsibility and find ways to solve issues.
- Joy. A delightful feeling that “all is well.” Have you notice how a sentence of appreciation can bring a genuine smile to even the most harassed person? Last 4th of July I was enjoying the festivities in Washington D.C. Needless to say, there were big crowds. When I went to eat, the lady at the cash register, after 9 hours of work, was sour. The people in front of me were complaining. When my turn came, I commented that it must be difficult to deal with the crowds, and that I appreciated her working on the holiday. I left her smiling and we both felt the joy of a shared moment of appreciation.
- Creativity. Appreciation unblocks people’s creativity and the result is an upsurge in productivity and in the quality of solutions brought to problems encounter at work. It is easier to work on several projects simultaneously, and incubate ideas, permitting cross-fertilization.
- Energy. Appreciation brings vitality, a sense of emotional well-being and a decrease in stress, which allows for greater focus and productivity.
- Transformation.- A whole school of change—Appreciative Inquiry— has developed around the transformational power of appreciation. As David Cooperrider says, commenting on the power of Appreciative Inquiry for change, “As people throughout a system connect in serious study into qualities, examples, and analysis of the positive core—each appreciating and everyone being appreciated—hope grows and community expands.”
We certainly need hope and community. Relationships thrive where there is appreciation. Collaboration brings in and listens to the diversity of voices needed to create a better world. I challenge you to bring appreciation into your life and your organization and to leave a positive legacy in your organization.