In learning how to be a good leader I came across this article. I literally could not stop reading it, it is that good!
“To see things in the seed, that is genius”, said Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher. This is what we now refer to as Appreciative Intelligence, a term coined by Tojo Thatchenkery to describe the capacity by certain individuals to see the positive inherent potential of situations or people – it is the ability to see a breakthrough product, top talent, or valuable solution of the future that is not readily visible in the present situation. In short, it is the ability to see the mighty oak in the acorn.
The term originated when the author began studying the explosive entrepreneurial growth in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. According to the author, it is appreciative intelligence that allowed, partly, for so many highly talented immigrants from different countries to assemble in the area and flourish. As the author puts it, venture capitalists looking to fund the right ideas were asking the question, “How can I make this work?” as opposed to “What are the chances this idea will fail?” They created an environment of high anticipation of positive results which became a contagious fever of opportunity, achievement, resilience and possibility recognition….
Recognition and praise are indeed high octane fuel for the soul. When we receive a genuine compliment, we experience an inner glow – it’s a warm, magical feeling that makes us break into a smile. It makes us want to go the extra mile for the person who bestowed the sincere compliment. If this were not important to us, we would not be treasuring all of the mementos of awards, plaques, appreciative notes and emails, and other tokens of appreciation that we receive over the years….
Here are some pointers for practicing this important skill:
- If you have difficulty praising others, analyze the root causes of this. If it is a fear of embarrassing others, know that even the most introverted individuals who shun public praise enjoy reading an email to all staff about their contributions. If it is a discomfort at not knowing how to do it, read the few simple rules below and consider working with a coach for one or two sessions on this most important aspect of a leader’s communication repertoire. Self-awareness precedes self-management.
- Sometimes, withholding praise is simply due to a lack of time for leaders who are required to handle an ever increasing number of issues during the course of a harried day. If this is your challenge, I encourage you to reframe how you view this particular issue. Showing your people you care about them needs to move up on the list of items in your “to do” list. It takes less than 10 seconds to say, “I appreciate the time and thought you put into this report. It is exceptional. Thank you.”
- Praise has a limited “best before” date. Don’t delay its expression or wait until performance review time – when you see something that is worthy of praising, do so promptly after the event.
- Make your genuine words memorable for your constituents by being specific about the achievement. Not many of us remember the perfunctory “job well done”, but we all would remember someone who tells us “This was pure genius,” or “I would have missed this if you hadn’t picked it up.” The praise does not have to be elaborate. It just needs to be genuine.
- When you drop by an employee’s office or cubicle to deliver the praise, don’t follow that with a conversation about business matters or other projects. Deliver the praise and leave. Come back later for discussions on other matters. This gives the praise its moment of honor and heightens its value in the eyes of the recipient.
- A primer for rewarding and recognizing others is Jim Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The book provides 150 ways to encourage the heart. Another useful book is Steven Kerr’s Ultimate Rewards: What Really Motivates People to Achieve (Harvard Business Review Book Series). The book outlines many different sources of motivation including accountability, responsibility, organizational culture, coaching, teamwork, incentives and goal setting.
- Finally, how can you apply the dynamic concept of appreciative intelligence on yourself? What are your talents? Practicing appreciating our talents and gifts opens us up to appreciating others’ greatness….
This article is an excerpt from Bruna Martinuzzi’s book: “The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.” Bruna is an educator, author and speaker specializing in emotional intelligence, leadership, Myers-Briggs and presentation skills training. Visit her website at www.clarionenterprises.com.