“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”
~Mother Teresa

Whenever we teach feedback skills – to new managers, experienced managers, or even senior leaders – we always reinforce the need for more positive feedback in the world. Not just empty accolades, but real, specific, and actionable positive feedback.

This often seems to be a recommendation that takes people by surprise, even as they write it down and think it through, but it’s a firm belief on our part and a research-supported managerial model as well. If you think about it, it makes sense.

People, in general, are hungry for appreciation. They want to know that their contributions are recognized and they are making a difference. They want to feel valued, respected, and even loved. Perhaps desire for approval first comes from our need to please our parents, perhaps it comes from our attempts to earn higher grades in school, perhaps it’s simply in our DNA. Whatever the root cause, we are all eager to be recognized for a job well done.

When you tell people what you appreciate about them and what they’ve done well you increase your chances of getting more of that very same behavior. As the plants and trees turn towards the warmth of the sun, people turn towards those from whom they feel appreciation, and they often eagerly attempt to repeat the behaviors that earned them appreciation in the first place.

Many times the feedback we give is about the things that people do “wrong” or imperfectly, or what they could have done better. We acknowledge others’ shortcomings and forget to applaud all that’s good about them and their work. We mistakenly believe that this method is more effective at getting the results we want from others.

The truth is the opposite. Reinforcing positive and productive contributions – at work, at home, and throughout life in general – helps others reach a more positive and engaged attitude and approach, as well as a greater desire to continue to improve in order to keep receiving that great feedback.

As you focus on what needs to be better and what needs to be done, stop and consider whether you have taken the time to appreciate all of the great work that already has been done, as well as all of the great work that is continuing to get done. Share that perspective and feed that hunger.

Find one or two people whom you really do appreciate and share your appreciation (and the reasons for it) with them. Find one or two people who you really don’t appreciate that much and find something to appreciate about them and share it with them as well.

Who in your life deserves more appreciation? Where have you been holding back appreciation, or only offering criticism, and how can you turn around your approach?
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