The Secret Tactic: Appreciation

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of leaders a couple of weeks ago. We usually use this time to go over our patient experience CAHPS scores, and any hard initiatives and tactics we are working on, such as hourly rounding, communication boards. etc.  But this time I wanted to shake things up a little bit.

Recently I was talking with Tim Keogh from April Strategy regarding improvement initiatives we are working on in the ER. As we discussed how to keep the team engaged and motivated, he mentioned that appreciation is one of the highest drivers behind performance.

I think I knew this, like we all know to stay on the right side of the road when we drive, but I had never really taken the time to dig into the research behind it and confidently make appreciation a purposeful part of our strategy and culture.

Mike Robbins’ TEDx talk on The Power of Appreciation confirmed Keogh’s assertions.  In his talk, Robbins shares his story of being on a fast track trajectory to a professional baseball career as a pitcher, only to have his arm blow out in the minor league and end his career for good. His only regret? He didn’t appreciate the process as it was happening. He started to think about appreciation, what is and how it is applied to our lives, and built his entire career around it.

One of the biggest distinctions that must be clarified regarding appreciation is how it differs from recognition. Recognition is entirely performance and outcome based. The only time it is offered is when you win the game, or when you achieve the 90th percentile. Robbins explains that appreciation on the other hand is much more expansive in its application. Appreciation can be offered to anyone, at anytime, because appreciation is not determined solely by the performance–it’s as much about the process as it is the outcome.

Appreciation is all about understanding. When you appreciate someone, you are most likely thanking them but you are also telling them you understand what they have done, their effort, their impact, or simply how they are feeling.”

-Mike Robbins, The Power of Appreciation at TEDxBellevue

Research supports the distinct power behind the simple act of showing appreciation. Robbins quotes a Department of Labor study that showed 64% of people left their job because they didn’t feel appreciated or valued. The study showed that feeling appreciated and valued was more important than the money they made, the work they were doing, and that it had a significant impact on productivity.

What motivates more: Being Recognized or Feeling Appreciated?

It may be natural to think that people enjoy being recognized, but studies (and my own personal experience confirms) that people only enjoy recognition when it is directly tied to something very personal and given out by people who matter to the recipient. In his talk, Robbins explains that when people were recognized for their behaviors, they were 23% more productive. Great! However, when they felt appreciated (valued and cared for as a person), their increased productivity doubled to 43%.

As I talk with nurses about what matters to them, feeling appreciated is at the top of their list. One nurse explained to me that after getting body fluid in her eye, the simple action of her director taking the time to check in and see how she was doing made all the difference to her.

“The fact that after the meeting, my director asked, ‘Hey, how is your eye?’ That makes all the difference in the world to me–that you know me, that you know my situation, and that you care.”

-Addie, RN

So how can we infuse appreciation into what we do everyday? The first step is to be aware. We all get so busy we don’t recognize, like Robbins, the amazing things that are happening all around us all of the time. Once we are aware, we can purposefully make it a point to reach out to  our colleagues and team members to let them know that we see the effort they are giving and the impact they are having on either ourselves or others.

Tips for Bringing Appreciation into Your Everyday:

  • Appreciate publicly. I have found that surprising someone by appreciating them publicly increases its impact on that person.
  • Appreciate often. Schedule it on your calendar to keep it at the forefront of your mind to help you stay aware.
  • Appreciate in writing. A hand written note these days is all too rare and the extra time it takes speaks volumes to those who are receiving it.
  • Appreciate sincerely. As humans, we can smell insincerity and obligatory compliments from miles away. By being aware, we can keep our appreciation real and meaningful.

I have been more purposeful of being aware of what’s going on around me since my conversation that started me thinking about all of this, and I have noticed opportunities to connect and appreciate others that I would have let pass by me before. I’m confident the more I practice being aware, the more opportunities I will see to let the people around me know how much they matter and what an incredible impact they are having on their community everyday.

What about you? Have you ever found appreciation to be a powerful motivating force in your own life? Do you purposefully use it in your teams? Let me know about it in the comments below!





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