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How to Strengthen Organizational Alignment: The Power of Appreciation

You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.

Glances around the conference table. This was not business as usual.

The presenter had an ear-to-ear grin.

Bob had just given a compliment.

Bob is respected throughout the industry for his accomplishments and wisdom. He has the CEO’s ear and trust. Known for his business acumen and experience, he embodies the company’s spirit. People refer to him as “the Sage.”

He is revered for many reasons, but giving compliments isn’t one of them.

This compliment and the ones that followed were the genesis of change in company culture.

The senior leadership went from wondering when the Sage would set his retirement date to adopting the practice of giving compliments more freely and frequently.

The company culture was further strengthened. Already known for their experience and reliable delivery, they were becoming even better by developing a sense of belonging throughout the organization.

Silos and animosity slowly fell away as teams realized each other’s goals and positive intentions.

Organizational alignment was being created through deeper trust, appreciation, and collaboration. 

How can showing appreciation and acknowledging a person create such a massive shift?

I practice something called SHUVA in my work with clients and workshop participants.

SHUVA is the acronym standing for the 5 fundamental human needs to be Seen, Heard, Understood, Valued, and Appreciated.

When humans experience SHUVA, they feel acknowledged for their simple “being”.

Their experience, effort, and contribution is appreciated.

They want to belong, align, and commit to the organization.

So they collaborate, have better conversations, and become more fulfilled through their relationships.

These behaviors make it easier to create alignment and build a culture for success.

It’s a simple concept that can have a huge impact.

How to Give Compliments and Acknowledgements that are Remembered Forever

Let’s look at Bob’s compliment to learn what made it so powerful.

His compliment was simple and eloquent.

The elements were textbook perfect.

Here’s what he said and why it worked:

  • Provided data – “Your presentation was informative and compelling. It is clear you worked hard to gather and present the relevant information in a short time. We have plenty of time now to make a decision.”
  • Shared an emotional response – “I walked in today feeling skeptical about our direction. I’m now confident and optimistic we can align on a path forward now. “
  • Connected to Impact – “Your recommendation does require change and funding, however it is aligned with our values and strategic plan. I can see a path forward which will enhance our standing, market share, and bottom line.”
  • Extended appreciation and acknowledgement – “Thank you”.

Try this next time you give a compliment:

Provide data by sharing the specific reasons for the compliment. Share your emotional response. Connect their actions with impact on the organization. Say thank you.

4 Situations that Present Opportunities to Give Compliments and Appreciation

When I suggest that my clients should give their reports compliments and appreciation, I often get this response:

“I’ll do it, but I need to wait until the person does something good.”

Sure, task or project completion is the most recognized opportunity for acknowledging effort and contribution.

However, there are many more opportunities. To become more masterful at expressing appreciation consider these opportunities:

1. When someone is making a recommendation, request, or proposal.

Provide an acknowledgement or a compliment to the person before speaking to your concerns.

You will find more openness to feedback and change to their plans if you first acknowledge their effort in developing the plan.

2. When you see them in a casual setting.

What can you say to replace “How are you? Have a good day.”

Even in passing conversations there is the possibility to communicate openness and appreciation for others’ gifts, contributions, and talents. It could just be a way of being that nonverbally communicates appreciation for being in the same place, etc. .

3. “Constructive feedback” conversations.

Even in these tough conversations there is plenty of room to express confidence in a person’s potential and the value you see if they can act on the feedback.

4. In conflict.

Especially when tensions are high and views are not aligned, expressing appreciation paves the way to resolution.

Can you build from the viewpoint of the other person being at least 10% right?

Could you honor their perspective by seeking understanding of their views?

Giving another person the experience of being heard and understood is powerful when you don’t agree.

Everyone Needs to Know They are Valued

Feeling valued is the validation of a human’s actions and presence at a core level.

When we feel valued we believe that we matter in the world.

Our purpose, mission, and actions have impact.

Here are 5 areas you can notice and express appreciation for how you value others.

  1. Value their knowledge, experience, and viewpoint.
  2. Value their effort.
  3. Value their accomplishments.
  4. Value their potential.
  5. Value how they have changed you.

The story of Bob “the Sage” shows how powerful it is when we appreciate others at work.

When you practice SHUVA, you can help everyone feel more connected and happy to be part of the team – leading to big improvements in how everyone gets along and works together.

If you like the idea of making your workplace better by appreciating each other more, I invite you to book a call to talk about coaching or team alignment workshops. Let’s work together to make your team stronger and more united.

I deeply appreciate those who have helped me shape my thoughts for this post. I’d like to acknowledge them and provide links for diving deeper into the art and science of showing appreciation.

Patty Beach is the author of The Art of Alignment – A Practical Guide to Inclusive Leadership. Sometimes known as the Queen of SHUVA, Patty shares years of coaching and team development experience with me. See her TED talk here.

Tony Zampella and the folks at Bhavana Learning Group go deep wherever they go. This article explores the impact of being seen, heard, and acknowledged.

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Ken Roseboom

Ken Roseboom is the President of Thinking Partners. He partners with leaders to increase impact, create aligned teams, and deliver better results. He leverages the Alignment process, assessment tools, expert coaching, and years of front line leadership experience to support his clients.
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