Using appreciation to build relationships

Appreciation is the secret sauce—now more than ever.

Several months ago when we were preparing to write this blog on appreciation, we went on Twitter and entered #AppreciationPolitics, thinking it would be wonderful to find an uplifting story from the political area that we could write about — something that would give us a reason to wax poetic and get a glow on.

Well, not so much. Twitter reported: “No results.” What?! Of all the hundreds of thousands of topics on Twitter that garner interest and are share-worthy, there was nothing.

Our spontaneous reaction was to burst out laughing. But, unfortunately this is no laughing matter. Why? Because appreciation is a crucial component for happiness and successful relationships. There is much research that points to appreciation being the number one thing that people want most at work and in life.

Appreciation is the secret sauce

It is important to find a way to open our hearts and appreciate others -- especially if those others view things differently than we do. Appreciation is not about being a Pollyanna or turning a blind eye to bad behavior or worse.

Voltaire, 18th Century French philosopher and prominent figure of the French Enlightenment, powerfully articulated the value of appreciation when he said, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

Imagine the kind of world we could create together if we were all guided by this philosophy.

Considering this on an organizational level, we know from experience that both team effectiveness and a leader’s effectiveness closely correlate with a culture of real appreciation. Maybe you’ve had the experience of walking into a room where a team is meeting and were able feel  the appreciation and respect team members have for one another; it’s palpable.

And the reverse is just as true. Working in a team of people who are angry, hostile and totally lacking in appreciation for one another is miserable. It’s a no-brainer to know which team will be the high performing one. And have the happiest, most satisfied team members.

So while we’re probably not going to heal politics and violence in the world, we do have the ability to make a difference right where we are — within our professional and personal lives. A kind word and a gesture of sincere appreciation can go a long way.

Remember this: In appreciating others we acknowledge their value in the situation or relationship. Challenge yourself to notice what you can appreciate about someone, even (and especially) if it’s difficult. Here are a few simple guidelines: 1) be authentic: say what it means to you; 2) be timely: do it now; 3) make it a habit: look for opportunities to appreciate another.

Who will you appreciate today?

For help in creating a culture of appreciation in your organization, contact Alexandra Ross and Diane Brennan at

Updated from original post March 20, 2016, 

3 Guidelines for Valuing Someone's Work or Contribution

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #1: I would like to appreciate you for…

3 Guidelines for Valuing Someone's Work or Contribution

Have you ever found yourself silently appreciating something about a colleague or family member, yet failed to articulate it? Before you beat yourself up for answering in the affirmative, know this: we have all done it; and we will all do it again.

Let’s talk about why it is worth cultivating the habit of appreciating others. For starters, research shows that appreciation is the number one thing people say they want most at work and in life. Being authentically appreciated is valued even more than getting a raise. Think about it: getting a raise is really a token of how much you are appreciated.

Another reason to make appreciation a habit is that it is a powerful relationship builder. Why? Think about the last time someone took the time to really appreciate you. How did it make you feel? How did it influence your relationship with the other person? How did it influence your outlook?

Here are three guidelines for appreciating others:

1) Be authentic: say specifically what their behavior or contribution meant to you. Example: “Tom, thank you so much for staying late last night to crunch those numbers. Your work really saved my presentation this morning. I appreciate your commitment to our team.”  

2) Be timely: do it now;

3) Make it a habit: do it regularly.

Start scanning your environment now for opportunities to authentically appreciate someone’s work or contribution. Then speak your appreciation. And notice the impact you just made on someone’s day. Maybe even their life.