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The Art of Acknowledging

Question: What’s the # 1 reason great people leave organizations?

Answer: They don’t leave organizations. They leave the managers who aren’t showing appreciation for their contributions.

That makes the art of acknowledgement one of the most important things you can do to retain and motivate your talented people to stay and do well.

This incredible strategy costs you nothing and pays huge dividends. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Unfortunately, many CEOs dismiss acknowledgment as a “soft skill.” I like to call these non-technical tasks “deep skills,” instead. These require a deeper level of involvement from the leader, but they also lead to a deeper level of connection, engagement, commitment and productivity from your people.

Acknowledging is more than a compliment

Compliments are a step in the right direction, but they’re not enough. If you think about it, compliments are more about the person giving them than they are about the person receiving. If I tell you I liked the report you handed in, that has more to do with my opinion and what appeals to me.

If I acknowledge the work you put into the report, and comment on your qualities and skills that I see expressed in the report, I’ve taken things to that deeper level.

When you acknowledge someone, you’re acknowledging the strengths behind what they have done or accomplished, as well as who they are as a person – not just as an employee.

Acknowledging a lost deal

I walked into a client’s office one day and found my client, along with several other members of my client’s leadership team, consoling an employee named Nancy. Nancy had just found out that after traveling to another city to pitch a big new client, they decided not to award her company the contract. A successful bid would have meant great accolades and a lot of money for the company.

The company leaders could have been chastising Nancy for the results, but instead they were acknowledging her efforts and validating her talents. Which approach do you think would have Nancy pumped up to put her best effort into the next pitch?

It’s your turn

  1. Choose someone that you want to acknowledge, and why you are acknowledging them. Be sure it’s for a substantial enough reason, and that it is sincere, timely and from your heart.
  2. Write out a script for what you’re going to say.
  3. Deliver your acknowledgement in person (best), by telephone (good) or in a handwritten note (fine).
  4. If you’re up for the challenge, be accountable to me by sending me an email once you’ve completed this task.

Acknowledgement endorses and validates the other person, which translates to higher performance, better retention and more accountability. That’s a pretty powerful leadership tool, and one that costs you nothing!