What might be the special ingredient for building relationships and encouraging a positive culture in the workplace?
Answer: A little dash of appreciation
Recently, I’ve been following Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess‘s #LEADlap challenges. The latest challenge has transformed the lens from which I view others. Honestly, I’ve always considered myself an appreciative person, but I now feel like my camera lens has been zoomed in to truly see the details of what my colleagues do on the daily basis that MUST be recognized and appreciated. When I read Beth’s blog post, Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation, I couldn’t help but think, “I couldn’t agree more,” and immediately after that thought was one of “I need to take action to make this happen.”
I went to Office Depot and bought some colorful, textured paper and pens, then created my own “Anchor of Appreciation” template. Next, I made a list of all of my colleagues I thought might be encouraged by a little gratitude. I chose to make my notes a bit personal; however, I followed the model Beth and Shelley share in their #LEADlap for A-is for Appreciation. The template simply follows this pattern, “I appreciate ______ (explicitly spelling out the act/s), because of ______(tying it to a school goal, district goals, best practice or student learning.) My goal is to write at least three a day and try to deliver them when my colleague is away from their office or desk.
After writing and delivering my first set of anchors, I realized a little dash of appreciation goes a long way. I began to notice the “little” things that are truly HUGE things my colleagues do on a daily basis to keep our system running so smoothly. For example, one of my peers handled many obstacles at the onset of this year. Any ONE of them would have easily hindered her job performance, but she managed them with such grace and humility. If I weren’t paying attention, I wouldn’t have even noticed the obstacles. She jumped the hurdles with ease and adjusted her course effortlessly, to the naked eye. In her anchor, I highlighted that observation. I wasn’t looking for a response, but that morning she greeted me with a huge hug and tears of gratitude.
Our early morning custodian and I arrive before most anyone is in the office and often enjoy a little morning chit-chat. As I pulled into the parking lot one pouring down rainy morning, I noticed her struggling to drag the cleaning equipment from the superintendent’s building to our building. She would lie a towel down and carefully dry off all of the equipment before entering the building to keep from tracking up the floors with mud and water. Then, when I approached her to see if I could assist in any way, she only smiled and wished me a good morning. She was ready for our daily conversation and paid no mind to her grapple in the rain. When I expressed my appreciation for her careful, detailed dedication to keeping our offices clean and tidy, her eyes glossed over with tears. She expressed to me that she’s never had someone notice such things. Appreciation–everyone deserves some. I would venture to say they deserve lots more than we make time to give.
While expecting nothing in return, I’ve had colleagues greet me with hugs, tears or statements such as “thanks for noticing,” and “no one has ever said such things to me.” It melts my heart that I haven’t been dropping anchors of appreciation sooner. Thank you, Beth and Shelley, for helping me fine tune my awareness of the marvelous things my colleagues do daily. I have many more “anchors” to write, but I now find myself expressing my appreciation in the moment; no need to wait.
In a job where our efforts are often behind the scenes, we would do ourselves (and our system as a whole) well to first, notice the amazing things people do to keep our system running like a fine-greased machine. Then, take action by dropping a dash of appreciation any chance we get. A little goes a long way.
I urge every educator to take on the Anchors of Appreciation challenge. It’s not only rewarding to the recipient; it’s life-changing for the giver.