What is a human’s greatest desire after the necessities of food, water, oxygen, and shelter have been obtained? The feeling of importance. Sigmund Freud put it as the ‘desire to be great’, John Dewey phrased it the ‘desire to be important’. Regardless it is craving that is nearly never satisfied. This desire is what pushes people to talk about their A+ students, the car they drive, how much money they make, or even their Facebook likes. Beginning to understand this principle is one of the only ways to shape our employees into what we know they can be, and how we want them to be. Sure, we can threaten to fire them, the same way someone can ‘make’ you hand over your wallet by putting a gun to your head, but they will most likely go back to their ways as soon as our back is turned. So how do we awaken this feeling of importance in our employees?
Honest and sincere appreciation. Let’s ask ourselves one of the same questions we did yesterday, can we remember the last time we applauded our employees for something they did well? Often as I have worked on this principle I’ve been told I was brown nosing, or kissing butt just to get what I want. So what’s the difference? What makes flattery frivolous and appreciation so effective? The difference is that flattery is selfish, insincere, and counterfeit. If your appreciation is not truly honest and sincere it does more harm than it helps.
Pamela Dunham told a story of a janitor under her supervision that was doing an exceedingly poor job. Other employees would make fun of him, and point out what an awful job he was doing. I’m sure this made him feel terrible, and despise coming to work, but do you think he this drove him to work harder and clean better? Pam tried everything under the sun to motivate this janitor and nothing seemed to work. Finally she noticed that occasionally she found something that he did clean well, and made it a point to praise him on it. She quickly saw that there become more and more that he did better. Eventually this employee that you thought could never perform well was exceeding expectations in every way. Honest and sincere appreciation worked where excessive criticism and flattery would not have.
Let’s focus on not only recognizing when our employees do well, but showing a sincere appreciation when they do.