It’s interesting how many executives through the years have told me that they don’t need much appreciation. Then when something difficult happens with their boss, or with their team, the truth comes out. They comment on how underappreciated they feel and it’s clear they experience the resentment that most of us feel when others act ungrateful. I understand. Admitting we need more appreciation is really not okay in most organizations and even less so at the top. It is not uncommon to feel that it makes us look needy and vulnerable. So we may deny the need to be recognized and appreciated.
Based upon personality research, it’s true some of us genuinely need less recognition and appreciation. But I am convinced that many at the executive level, and high-achievers at every level, are wired to need more. They also expect more feedback in general because they want to grow, develop and feel challenged at work. It seems like a trivial thing. I don’t think it is.
There is this narrative that I hear a lot, “The [executives] get paid a lot and they have a great package, so what do they need more appreciation for?” This may be true but it’s shortsighted. Like security, belonging and love, a need for appreciation is human. As much as we want to close off parts of ourselves at work, human needs don’t go away as we move up the corporate ladder. And what is demonstrated at the top, both effective and non-effective behaviors, often cascades to the next levels.
Executive’s behaviors are watched and mirrored. So if an executive at the top doesn’t recognize or appreciate her team, or coach, develop and provide ongoing performance feedback, it is also less likely that her team will do so. Of course there will be leaders who provide appreciation and recognition anyway, because they know it is a good practice and they are individually committed to growing their team. However, it is less likely to be an organizational habit, which is a big miss. Even if you really don’t need much recognition or appreciation, some of the people who report to you do and they may feel less motivated to extend discretionary effort if they feel others with whom they work don’t appreciate them.
Sharing appreciation and recognizing excellence, just like recognizing less than acceptable behavior and performance, is a requirement of leadership at all levels. If pay and benefits are where they need to be, thoughtful appreciation for extra effort, creativity, high performance or outstanding achievement is mostly free. It takes a little time to write a note, pick up the phone or stop by an office. The ROI will be well worth it.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.