Heather is a valuable employee of an international beauty products company. We met for coffee to discuss a challenge she was having with work. Despite her company’s overall mission to promote harmony between people by enhancing the way we live and interact with each other, Heather wasn’t feeling the harmony in her experience with her manager.
Over the past six years, Heather had developed herself from an entry-level employee to an outstanding contributor with a strong work ethic. Perhaps that explained one of the reasons she was promoted.
As our java chat (coaching over coffee) continued, she began to confide in me, so I asked, “What is your challenge today?” The bottom line answer: a growing disengagement at work.
In addition to Heather’s positive career path with the company, she consistently hit performance goals. She was also identified as an emerging leader by the company’s regional corporate leaders — an awesome achievement, indeed. So why then were we having this java chat?
Why was she thinking about leaving?
Did she enjoy her work? Yes.
Was she a “A-Player” making a difference; did she have highly valued character qualities and work ethic? Yes.
Had her employer invested time and money in her personal growth and professional development? Yes.
Was she growing as a person, an assistant manager, a leader? Yes.
Did her company see an enlarged role in her future? Yes.
Then, why was she considering an exit strategy?
If you ask, “How much of a raise did she want?” you asked the wrong question.
A people-focused leader would probe for answers:
- What can we do to hold on to this valuable person?
- How will we protect our investment in her training, experience, product knowledge, the personal development of this person, and all her customer relationships?
- What will it take to avoid the high cost of turnover? (Most sources agree it is 3 to 5 times an employee’s salary?)
(Note: neither salary or substantial work schedule demands were mentioned.)
As my frozen mocha coffee was all but gone she had answered my questions. The solution for keeping this emerging leader became quite clear: appreciation. Her manager was missing an important skill — the ability to communicate basic appreciation.
One simple behavior change — her manager showing appreciation for a job well done, for going the extra mile, for making their store a top performer in the company — and Heather would still be highly engaged. She would feel valued and give her best.
Now, how do you suppose her manager would respond if I were to ask, “Do you appreciate Heather?” Correct. She would probably say something along the lines of “We love Heather, she’s great.”
Here’s the bottom line: appreciation only exists when it is expressed. Appreciation is admiration, approval, or gratitude expressed.
Why do they leave?
Recent U.S. Department of Labor data shows that the number one reason people leave their job is that they do not feel appreciated. (And by the way, customer loyalty is based upon feeling appreciated, too.)
Unfortunately, the reality is that admiration, approval, and gratitude are left unexpressed far too often; that’s insane. The return on the investment in relationship building and performance is amazing.
What didn’t you say?
What is the message when admiration, approval, or gratitude is not communicated? Have you noticed how most people, if left on their own, imagine the worst-case scenario? That means most employees assume lack of appreciation if you don’t speak up.
Let’s keep it simple: appreciation must be shown to have an impact. That means you must let those around you know how you feel about them and their contribution.
What if it isn’t your style?
There are several ways to express appreciation. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. In fact, expressing appreciation can be quite easy. Here are a few suggestions:
- Be intentional; notice others and their contributions.
- Seize the moment; when you notice say something right then.
- Know your people; know what matters to them (public vs. private praise, etc.).
- Leverage existing opportunities; take time for a birthday lunch or coffee, celebrate their date of hire, etc.
- Brag on them to someone special; send a note, an email, or make a brief phone call.
What will it cost the company if Heather leaves? At minimum, the hidden costs associated with turnover. And what would it cost for her manager to be appreciative?
When you show appreciation for a person and their contribution, they’ll be more likely to remain engaged (like they were when you hired them) and perform at a higher level.
Create Space for Reflection
- How well are you showing appreciation of others around you?
- Who needs to know you appreciate them? How will you show it?
- What’s your plan for boosting the performance of your team?
Here’s to your Adventure,
Note: this blog is an edited version of “The Beauty of Appreciation” published in The People Project: Your Guide to Changing Behavior and Growing Your Influence as a Leader.
Photo credit: s3aphotography via flickr