Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

Leadership Lesson: Light Up Someone’s World By Lee Colan

William James, the father of psychology, stated that a fundamental human need is to be appreciated. This idea is supported by many studies that show the number one need expressed by employees is to feel fully appreciated for their work. The bottom line: We do more for those who appreciate us.

Although leaders at all levels widely recognize the need for employee appreciation, it tends to be a blind spot. We generally believe we are much more appreciative of our employees than they think we are. Showing appreciation is not a matter of time and intention. It’s a matter of priority and action. We must convert our thoughts of appreciation into acts of appreciation.

You can appreciate something about an employee him/herself (e.g., professionalism, reliability, creativity, organization, anticipating needs, enthusiasm, helpfulness to others, balancing work and family). You can also appreciate an employee’s performance (e.g., quality of work, teamwork, hitting a deadline, great presentation, consistency of results over time, level of commitment).

Keep in mind that appreciation is certainly not a one-size-fits-all need, so we need to personalize our appreciation.

For example, being recognized at a big department or company meeting might trigger more perspiration than inspiration for an introverted employee. Instead, use the information you learn about your employees to present an appropriate gift, token or sincere expression of appreciation. Invariably, the gift will be less important than the time and thought that went into it.

As a leader, here are some simple ways you can demonstrate your appreciation:

1. Allow employees to present their work to your boss. This is a great way to engage them, and it also shows your boss what kind of leader you are.

2. Offer employees a choice of projects to work on. When they buy into a project, they will put their hearts into it.

3. Tell an employee’s story of accomplishment at a team meeting. Detailed stories are perceived as more interesting, meaningful, thoughtful and memorable.

4. Sincerely and specifically communicate one or more of these expressions of appreciation…

• You really did a super job on that project!
• I am really impressed with your initiative.
• Thank you for handling that tough interaction so professionally.
• I appreciate the way you found a win-win solution.
• Thanks for helping me keep that meeting on track.

5. Gallup research revealed workgroups with at least a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions were significantly more productive than those having less than a 3-to-1 ratio. In other words, more productive teams had at least three positive interactions for every one negative interaction.

• What is the ratio for your team? Is it 1:1, 3:1, 5:1 or 10:1?

• Track your team’s ratio for a week to gauge how well you are appreciating your employees. Look for moments to acknowledge your team’s efforts and results. Reinforce those behaviors that you want to see more frequently. Catch them doing something right … and do it often!

• As long as your appreciation is sincere and meaningful, don’t worry about giving too much of it. To date, there are no studies of anyone ever feeling over-appreciated! So, shoot for a 10 or 20 to 1 ratio. The more appreciation you give, the more performance you will get.

The good news is leaders have complete control over this type of appreciation. No budget limitations or excuses here – there are literally thousands of ways to show your appreciation at little or no cost. Our goal is to be creative and out-think our competition, not outspend them.

Light up someone’s world with a little appreciation today!
Lee J. Colan is a high-energy executive advisor, author and speaker. He is passionate about delivering simple tools that leaders can put to work right away. Learn more at

-what are some ways you’re showing appreciation?