Imagine we have been tasked with launching a rocket but you had no awareness or understanding of Gravity. With every attempt, the rocket would lift inches off the ground only to be pulled back down by a force we did not understand.
With an abundance of research spanning over 2 decades, proving the personal, professional, and organizational benefits of expressing appreciation and gratitude, why is it many well intentioned efforts never get far off the ground?
- Why don’t managers recognize employees even when they know they should?
- Why is it that we tend to keep focusing on what we don’t have, instead of celebrating and being grateful for what we do?
In 2008, I watched the most toxic, seemingly irresolvable conflict with my business partner transform in minutes through a simple fifteen minute recognition activity. Moved by the experience, I set out to understand the why “If Recognition is free, and proven to increase the productivity and profits of our organizations, then why do managers often still fail to use it?” I started my research while living in Boston, Massachusetts. I took on the challenge of interviewing one stranger a day on the subway about the role recognition played in their life at work and home. In this unique laboratory, I spoke with parking lot attendants, Harvard professors, Delta ground crew members, and more. I found that the number one thing people associated with recognition (88%) is an experience of feeling valued, but also found that nearly 70% of people associate an experience of embarrassment and discomfort with the process. The stories of the over 400 people I interviewed exposed a hidden world of unconscious misconceptions and conflicting associations with the recognition process. When unaware, these associates often left people hesitant to express appreciation, jealous of others’ success, and reluctant to let in praise. Digging deeper into my studies, I identified common everyday misuses of recognition that perpetuated these misconceptions, broke down relationships, and sabotaged engagement efforts.
What I unintentionally stumbled upon was a powerful unconscious force that counters our efforts to recognize others, authentically express gratitude, and let in the good. As a result I developed a highly interactive experiential training program that guides people to expose, explore, and transform their relationship to giving and receiving acknowledgment, freeing them to express gratitude and appreciation to those around them and transform their organizational cultures.
The program looks at answering the questions…
- If recognition is supposed to be positive, why do we often get embarrassed or self-conscious when being praised by others?
- Why, when being recognized, do we often questions others’ intentions (What do they really want from me?)
- Why is it when people praise us we often tend to focus on the things we didn’t do, leaving us feeling like what we do is never enough?
Through the answering of these questions, we surface and identify a world of hidden associations with the recognition process.
No matter if I was working with postal workers in Lebanon, oil workers in Oman, United Nations Staff in Chile, social workers in Los Angles, or Salesforce IT managers in San Francisco, the same associations arise. Once people are exposed to these associations, the behaviors that keep them in place, and how to avoid them, there is a new freedom of expression among coworkers. They have an opportunity to learn concrete techniques that help them understand what each of the people around them wants and needs to feel valued. They also learn how to transform a simple misconception around performance that constantly drives them to burn out and how to change that on the spot.
My goal in this challenge is to share what I believe to be a life changing conversation with more people. I want to help remove this unconscious block that sabotages our most well intentioned efforts to connect with the people around us. I plan to do this by developing a Train the Trainer program so more people around the world can facilitate this simple process in their organization and communities. I also plan to increase the public dialogue around this subject by producing a short 5-7 episode, publicly available video series called “Beyond Thank You” where people can be exposed to this information online. My goal is to transform the global conversation around expressing and accepting appreciation and gratitude.