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Appreciation is such an important, and yet, overlooked part of being a leader.  This is especially true in volunteer-run organizations.

In the workplace, people are rewarded by money, titles, resources, and career advancement.  However, in volunteer run organizations, such as Toastmasters, appreciation by the leaders is really the gold currency that helps everything flows smoothly.

It is so important that the very first email that I sent out upon taking up the presidency of my current Toastmaster club here in Texas was to thank by name all of the other officers in the club.  The very first time I stood up in my capacity as president during the meeting, I again expressed my appreciation toward those officers.  I know that while as president, I may receive the public “credit” for how the club is doing.  But in truth, I know that how well the club does is really based upon all of the officers in the club and that without them, I wouldn’t be able to do much as president.  Thus I appreciate them very much.

Here are some tips on how to carry an attitude of appreciation as a leader. Do it totally honestly.  Feel that gratitude and appreciation within yourself before you express it.  Express it to the person, either one on one, or publicly by name (even better!).  Do it often.  Make it a habit to see what people are doing right and appreciate them for doing it.   Make sure it’s genuine.  Express why you appreciate them.

In the end, people love to be appreciated.  Myself included.  It’s so vital to all of us.  When we feel appreciated, it helps unleashed our energy to do more of what we want to do.  When we feel unappreciated, we hold back, we may feel resentful, and we don’t give our best effort.

Now, appreciation isn’t everything.  You, as a leader also need to make sure that you have a proper, exciting vision for your organization, that you need to understand the needs and wants of the people you’re leading, that you figure out what drives them, that you remove roadblocks, either psychological or physical, that gets in your people’s way, that you create a solid, ground-based plan on creating a successful organization, that you execute well, that you establish win-win relationships and so on.  There’s much to leadership.

But all of it will be so much harder to accomplish without taking the time and energy to appreciate those in your organizations.  In a way, appreciation is like the lube that helps the wheel turn much smoother.

Now, if you’re focused on appreciating your people, does it means you can’t tell people when they are doing something you feel is wrong?  Not at all! In truth, precisely because you’ve taken the time to appreciate those you lead, they most likely will actually be much more receptive to what you have to say when you decide to give them feedback on doing something differently.  After all, people hate being told over and over and over what they are doing wrong.  If you catch them regularly doing something right, and they feel appreciated by you, they will be much more open about your feedback on how to do something different.

While I’m writing mainly about volunteer organizations as that’s where I have years of leadership experience, this also applies to the workplace.  Appreciation is so important that the CEO/Founder of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher had a daily habit of hand writing individual notes of appreciation to his employees when he caught them doing something right.  Over the years he wrote thousands of these notes.  As a result of this, and other actions Herb Kelleher undertook as a leader, Southwest Airlines became famous for its great company culture.  A workplace in which employees feel appreciated runs much smoother.

And with that, I appreciate you for reading this blog post.  🙂

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