Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 3;   January 16, 2002:

Express Your Appreciation and Trust

by

Some people in your organization have done really outstanding work. You want to recognize that work, but the budget is so small that anything you could do would be insulting. What can you do? Express your Appreciation and Trust.
US Medal of Honor

US Medal of Honor. The President, in the name of Congress, has awarded more than 3,400 Medals of Honor, the highest U.S. citation for bravery.

Don showed up at 11:40, on the dot. No surprise there. "Ready?" he asked. Staring intently at her screen, Pat replied, "Yeah, just have to save this, one sec." She did, and then threw on her jacket and off they went to lunch. Lunch seemed so inadequate, she thought, after Don had basically saved the company from a horrible end. She'd been over this in her mind for weeks, finally hitting on lunch. What else could she do? Give him one of those $50 Amazon gift certificates that the guidelines allowed? That would have been demoralizing for them both.

Perhaps you've been there. Some people in your organization have done really outstanding work. You want to recognize that work, but the budget is so small or the guidelines so miserly that anything you could do would be insulting. What can you do when people do really outstanding work? Express your genuine appreciation and trust — person-to-person, heart-to-heart. Remarking on outstanding performance is the basis of other public recognitions, such as the Oscars or military medals.

Paradoxically, a big budget for rewards is a liability — it tempts you to reward with money or resources, which can depress performance. This happens, in part, because rewards of evident value carry with them two messages that you cannot control.

Rewards of evident value
invite comparisons
of their values.
We can't help but
make a meaning of
the size of the reward.
Personal barriers
The expression "please accept this token of our esteem" is so worn that we barely grasp its literal meaning. Instead of your esteem, you're offering a token — a placeholder, a barrier between yourself and the recipient.
The value of the reward is significant
Rewards of evident value invite comparisons of their values. We can't help but make a meaning of the size of the reward, usually related to the depth of the appreciation. Unless each reward is greater than the last, you risk being seen as less appreciative than you really are.

As an alternative, consider honoring the outstanding performance by expressing your appreciation and offering your trust. Express your appreciation and gratitude publicly at a ceremony with everyone in attendance.

Offer your trust by offering more responsibility and greater challenges. For example, Pat can say, "Don, I really appreciate what you did on the Metronome project — the whole company does. You did such great work, I wonder if you would want to consider taking on Daffodil."

By giving the outstanding performer an opportunity — a choice — to demonstrate further outstanding performance, you give both the performer and the organization opportunities to achieve together.

By expressing publicly your appreciation and gratitude, you give a reward that no one else can give. And you give yourself a gift too — the knowledge that the success of your organization is due not only to your own abilities, but to the achievements of everyone in it. Go to top Top  Next issue: Start a Project Nursery  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other BribesFor an extensive study of the depressive effects of rewards, see Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Order from Amazon.com.

For more about Trust, see "Creating Trust," Point Lookout for January 21, 2009, "TINOs: Teams in Name Only," Point Lookout for March 19, 2008 and "The High Cost of Low Trust: I," Point Lookout for April 19, 2006.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenXEiRBfuFHUtjHrqUner@ChacpYPvvSVhUNIOeXHKoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A wrecked boatShould I Keep Bailing or Start Plugging the Leaks?
When we're flooded with problems, and the rowboat is taking on water, we tend to bail with buckets, rather than take time out to plug the leaks. Here are some tips for dealing with floods of problems.
Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of Challenger in 1986Towards More Gracious Disagreement
We spend a sizable chunk of time correcting each other. Some believe that we win points by being right, or lose points by being wrong, but nobody seems to know who keeps the official score. Here are some thoughts to help you kick the habit.
A portrait of Matthew Lyon, printer, farmer, soldier, politicianHow to Foresee the Foreseeable: Recognize Haste
When trouble arises after we commit to a course of action, we sometimes feel that the trouble was foreseeable. One technique for foreseeing the foreseeable depends on recognizing haste in the decision-making process.
Cheshire Cat fading to a smile, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis CarrollHow to Avoid Getting What You Want
Why would you want to know how to avoid getting what you want? Well, suppose you had perfected ways of avoiding getting what you want, but you weren't aware that you were doing it. This one's for you.
Benjamin Franklin portrait by Joseph Siffred DuplessisWacky Words of Wisdom: IV
Words of wisdom are pithy sayings that can be valuable so often that we believe them absolutely. Although these sayings are often valuable, they aren't universally valid. Here's Part IV of a growing collection.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Adolf Hitler greets Neville Chamberlain at the beginning of the Bad Godesberg meeting on 24 September 1938Coming October 20: On Ineffectual Leaders
When the leader of an important business unit is ineffectual, we need to make a change to protect the organization. Because termination can seem daunting, people often turn to one or more of a variety of other options. Those options have risks. Available here and by RSS on October 20.
Browsing books in a library. So many books, we must make choicesAnd on October 27: Five Guidelines for Choices
Each day we make dozens or hundreds of choices — maybe more. We make many of those choices outside our awareness. But we can make better choices if we can recognize choice patterns that often lead to trouble. Here are five guidelines for making choices. Available here and by RSS on October 27.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenXEiRBfuFHUtjHrqUner@ChacpYPvvSVhUNIOeXHKoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!