A mantra for paying forward

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A mantra for paying forward the gift of appreciation. Many people ask me why I have the title of Chief Pay it Forward Officer. My response is always twofold – First, because I love how it makes me feel when I have the opportunity to pay it forward, and second because I love the difference that paying it forward can have on others

So a win for me, and a win for my recipients!

This same is true when it comes to recognition and appreciation, for paying it forward by giving what I call the ‘gift’ of appreciation, again has two impacts. First, it makes you feel great when you show appreciation to someone. And second, when you deliver this gift, this ‘appreciation feeling’ as I call it, it can make the recipient happier. This is because it releases happiness chemicals, positively impacts their wellbeing, and makes them more productive and successful.

So again, a win:win!

But how do you do this? How do you get it right so that you recognise others to deliver the appreciation feeling? To help you with this I’ve come up with a simple and easy to remember mantra, a call to action:

See it. Say it. Appreciate it!  

It’s a phrase you can use over and over again to remind yourself of the three key steps to take when recognising and showing appreciation to your people. 

Here is a high level summary of these steps taken from my book:

1. See it – Look for recognition moments everywhere and anywhere

The first part of the mantra is “See it,” as this is where it all begins. In training classes I often say that we all need to put our recognition “glasses” on, thus looking for and seeking out opportunities to recognise and show appreciation to your people. This is absolutely critical, for if you don’t first see the moments, then they will be missed, and the appreciation will never happen. Here are two tips to help you do this:

● Look for recognition in everyone – It’s important to look in all directions to find moments that are recognition-worthy in all of your people. Challenge yourself to look at all of the work being done by your team and all of your people, not missing moments (and people) that may not be as visible.

● Get others involved – Another way to capture recognition moments is to get more people involved, adopting what I call a “crowdsourcing” approach to recognition and apprecation. This is critical to keep in mind so you don’t miss any of those important recognition moments by having your team work together to see and recognize all of the great work and contributions being made.

2. Say it – Take action and make it happen

The next part of the mantra is “Say it,” which means to say and do something once you see a moment that deserves to be recognised, taking action. Here are two things to keep in mind when getting the actions right:

● Words – As I’m sure you’ve seen and felt, words can have a significant impact and power, which is why it’s important to choose them wisely, and get them right when you recognise your people. In my training classes I share a three-step process, which is to 1) Tell the action – what did they do that you are recognising? 2) Link to your values – which value(s) does it bring to life, and 3) Share the impact – what difference did it make?

● Rewards – Next, consider what you say through the rewards that you give when you recognize someone. Sometimes the reward is your words, and sometimes it can be a physical reward (e.g. a gift, time off, etc.). And as with words, getting it right is absolutely critical, for the wrong reward can deliver the wrong meaning and thus the wrong outcome. 

3. Appreciate it! – Deliver the ultimate appreciation feeling

The last part of the mantra is “Appreciate it!” and is about delivering that appreciation feeling. What I mean by this is that throughout the process it’s important to focus on the end result that you are looking to achieve, which is that of well, appreciation. You want to make sure that all of the steps and actions you take get you to the goal you are trying to achieve, which is your employee genuinely feeling appreciated. If that feeling isn’t met at the end of the day, you haven’t met your objectives.

When thinking about this feeling of being appreciated, here are four outcomes that you should be striving for from the person who you’re recognizing: 

● Feeling valued – Feeling valued through appreciation helps us feel good about ourselves, reinforcing a positive sense of self-worth. A survey from the American Psychological Association found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers. 

● Feeling seen – Feeling seen and being noticed by others through appreciation makes us feel that we’re important to others. Studies have found that being seen is necessary to feel like we matter and promote mental and emotional wellbeing. Social psychologists Morris Rosenburg and Claire McCullough wrote that feeling noticed is “the most elementary form of mattering.”

● Having a sense of meaning – Being appreciated delivers a sense of meaning, showing us that the work we are doing is meaningful and that it’s making a difference. The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, said  that as human beings we are motivated by a “will to meaning.”

● Feeling connected – And finally, appreciation can help us feel connected to one another, strengthening bonds and leading to stronger and more meaningful relationships. Studies have shown that social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems. 

I hope you’ve found this mantra helpful, and can use it day in and day out to pay it forward by delivering the gift of appreciation to your people.

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