The success of any leader is highly dependent on the effectiveness of their team; leadership is never a solo piece. This is the confession that many leaders and managers often fail to make; not only to their team members but also to themselves. Managers have long meetings, conferences and even press briefings where leaders get to shine and represent a work well done. Often though, the folks in the background, are not always properly acknowledged and appreciated for their good work and the great efforts put in to achieve brilliant results.

Acknowledgement and appreciation are critical principles to ensure that while leaders are shining bright like a diamond, team members are not glowing like the lit fuse of a dynamite.

Otherwise, an explosion would be avoidably inevitable. Growing up, I remember hearing the older folks saying, “encouragement sweetens labour”. In the society that we live in today, some people believe money is all. However, in many circumstances, mere acknowledgement without financial rewards can do a great deal in boosting people’s morale and even their performance. We can acknowledge our team members in many ways that we often overlook. “Good job”, “excellent work”, and “I couldn’t have done it without you” are parked comments that many persons in leadership and management don’t even care to say these days. I’ve heard these remarks said to me before and they have only had a positive impact, and they didn’t cost a penny. Though we may take it for granted that “people get paid”, they also need to know that leaders realize their contribution to the success of the team and that there is some form of acknowledgement, whether public or private.

Acknowledgement gives an excellent opportunity for critical feedback. Feedback is never a problem when there is a negative outcome. I’m sure many can attest to this fact. However, feedback is equally important when everything went as planned or there were positive results. A habit of acknowledging our team members on a continual basis creates an opportunity for feedback through a channel that is more often open and less tense. This is especially important when the need for feedback about a bad outcome arises. Teams are more open and responsive to leaders’ feedback in a negative situation than the same would have been obtained in a positive situation. It is counterproductive to wait for a performance appraisal to bring up all the bad stuff. In fact, even if the good stuff is mentioned at this point, it matters less to team members than if it was acknowledged more promptly.

Expressing gratitude is a gift that keeps people doing their best.

Increasingly, financial motivation is becoming a difficult fete to maintain. Everyone is downsizing, economizing or reorganizing their business! But, that doesn’t mean that our teams should suffer from what I’d like to call appreciation deficiency syndrome (ADS); a state where our team members measure their work to ensure that they do “just enough” or only what is required because there is no reward – whether financial or emotional. Often, leaders settle for 100%, which seems all right, but doesn’t quite represent the best that our teams can produce. 100% is only our initial best. If humans are constantly learning, then the mark for best is constantly advancing as we improve. We all can relate: if we wrote a paper we considered our best to date, then rewrote it a month later, our best in many cases would have advanced to becoming a better best. When folks do their best, and no appreciation is expressed, then the great effort is not reinforced, but rather unacknowledged and even punished, I dare say. It is reasonable to expect that any advances toward a better best become stalled.

It is important, refreshing even to say, ‘thank you’. We all love to hear those words. Expressing gratitude demonstrates good character and inspires those around us to continue doing their best in the team, and attain their better best. Good leaders never do all the work, but rather inspire and influence team members to work towards achieving whatever goals and objectives. As such, it is a good practice to platform our teams; acknowledging their work and letting them shine. Remember that leaders are part of a team; the ultimate team player!

We must lead by empowering team members to attain their better best and expressing appreciation for their efforts and contributions to our success.

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