Even the CEO Needs Appreciation

In honor of National Small Business Owner’s Day this Thursday, March 29th, we wanted to take a look at those whose job it is to lead their organizations – whether large or small, family owned or publicly traded. As an owner, CEO, or manager, it can be a challenge to show appreciation to others on your team when you don’t feel appreciated.

Not feeling valued is not reserved only for “lower level” workers, which some people seem to assume. The fact remains that ultimately everyone wants to know that they are valued by those around them.

One business owner and CEO of his company confided in me: “You know, the employees look at me and think I have it made. They see me speaking in front of groups, we have a big house, and we get to take nice vacations. It looks like the American dream to them. But they don’t see the pressure I carry: finding enough work to keep fifty people employed or the fact that my personal assets are used as collateral by the banks, so if the business goes down, so do my savings. I’m not complaining; I have a good life, but it’s lonely at the top, and no one seems to think that the owner needs to hear a little appreciation, too.”

I’m not suggesting we throw a pity party for the leaders and executives of organizations. But we do need to pay attention and not assume that those at the top of the organization feel valued and appreciated. They too need to hear “thanks” or be shown appreciation in the language and actions they value.

Challenges. I should note that showing appreciation to the boss can be seen by others as “sucking up.” The reality is, while this can be the case (either that the person is trying to gain favor by showing appreciation, or that it is perceived that way), usually the truth wins out. That is, over time, a person’s actions tend to reveal their real motivations. I encourage employees to err on the side of taking the risk of communicating appreciation to those in higher job positions, rather than let their supervisor “die on the vine” because she never hears anything positive about what she does.

Appreciation can start anywhere. One of the most exciting findings we have discovered in our work with groups across the world is that appreciation doesn’t have to start at the top of an organization and then trickle down. Regardless of a person’s position in an organization, they can begin to communicate appreciation to those with whom they work and start to have a positive impact.

The primary point is: you can make a difference (regardless of your position.) You have the ability to make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. This is opposition to the victim mentality that is sometimes fostered in the media: “I work in such a terrible place.” “Everybody is so negative.”

Cultivate gratitude and thankfulness. Research has shown that individuals who keep daily track of things they are grateful for show greater determination, attention, enthusiasm, and energy compared to those who don’t practice this discipline. The same research found that even a

weekly gratitude journal showed increases in optimism (and also a reduction in the report of physical ailments such as aches and pains).

Becoming more thankful in daily life doesn’t take a lot of effort. Start with the simple things in life that we sometimes take for granted: running water, safe water to drink, food to eat, not living in a war zone, being able to see, hear, talk, and walk, friendships, family, and the ability to read. The list is endless but we sometimes forget all that we have and are blessed with.

Learn what encourages each team member. Sometimes people don’t communicate appreciation because they don’t know what to do. (This is one of the premises of the Appreciation at Work training—to teach people a variety of ways to communicate appreciation beyond what they typically know.)

One of the best ways to do this is to take your team (including your leaders!) through the Appreciation at Work training process, where you learn how each person in your workgroup prefers to be shown appreciation and begin to implement actions to do so. You and your colleagues may be trying to show appreciation but are just doing so in ways that are not meaningful to the recipient. So, learning the ways that each person does feel valued will help you hit the mark.

Look for small opportunities. Sometimes colleagues and those around us can show appreciation in small ways (a short “thank you,” a smile, a nod of one’s head, agreeing with a point you’ve made, or a simple “good job” at the end of a meeting). While these may not be as full and meaningful as the actions of appreciation we teach in our training, they are at least a start and should not be discounted or denigrated.

Grow in leadership. Like it or not, there are periods of time when someone must lead, and the mature must do what is needed, even when your actions may be misperceived by others as self-interested. This essentially is at the core of maturity and leadership. Some people are able to step up and lead in these situations, while others are not.

I would encourage each of us, however, not to wait until you feel appreciated before you start to show appreciation to others. Start now, with someone – and don’t forget your boss!

This article was adapted from The Vibrant Workplace. To celebrate Spring, and to help you ‘spring into action’ to build a culture of appreciation in your workplace, I’d like to extend a special “FREE SHIPPING” offer on The Vibrant Workplace when you order five or more copies this week! Use the code “VIBRANTSPRING” at checkout.

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