Six Steps to Energy
Leaders correct too much and affirm too little.
Hold monthly affirmation sessions. Here’s how.
Invite one key player to an affirmation session for the sole purpose of encouragement. Be prepared. You do this so little it may freak them out.
First, clarify mission, vision, and values.
Second, honor their admirable qualities, outstanding service, consistency of character, and growing potential. Explain how they fit in. Say things like, “You’re helping us become who we want to be when you ______.” Be specific.
Third, ask how things are going in their area.
Fourth, say how can we help.
Fifth, discuss their future direction within the organization and beyond.
Finally, hand them a thank card with hand-written notes from each member of the team.
Do not offer suggestions or improvements.
The only time improvement enters the conversation is when the leadership team asks, “How can we help?” At that time, any discussion of improvement focuses on the organization and the leadership team, not on the person being affirmed.
It takes about an hour to affirm a key organizational player. It may sound a little like sitting in a circle and singing kumbaya but it’s the best hour of the day. It does as much for you as for them.
How are you affirming people?
I too am an affirmation fan, Dan. Not sure about number 6 as it may come across as not being authentic enough if it becomes an “expectation” at the monthly affirmation session. Positive feedback, when deserved (and the key is finding positives that deserve to be reinforced) is a huge motivator!
Having people in for a special once a year affirmation session shouldn’t replace systematic feedback, both positive and negative… Because it’s once a year it’s pretty easy for everyone to find behaviors they can affirm and write down. Thanks for joining the conversation.
Great idea. I enhance these experiences by knowing and speaking the appropriate language of appreciation. I recommend the book; The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Being specific with each appreciation to each of my team has totally changed our organization for the better. And, since everyone is getting what they want/need…no one is jealousy if one person gets a handwritten letter and the other gets tickets to a sporting event. I’m shocked it works…but it totally does. I’ve been struggling however with the format of my monthly one-on-one’s with my team. Thanks for this suggestion, I’m going to give it a shot for a few months.
Thanks for sharing your story and a book recommendation. I don’t have that one, yet.
If you think of it, I’d love to hear how it works for you.
In regard to team meetings, once in awhile I’ll ask everyone to say something good about the people around the table.
Bottom line, if we aren’t intentional about being positive focusing on problems becomes the thing we always think about. In the end, we always focus on problems and that means we become negative.
I agree totally with your bottom line.
As far as the book, The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. No other single book has had as great of an impact on our team culture. Knowing how my team most appreciates positive feedback from really let’s me tailor feedback to have the greatest impact.
Well, GREAT STUFF AGAIN DAN!!!!!!!!!!!!
People feel underpaid and underappreciated. If you can’t pay-um luv-um relentlessly!!!!!!!! Most live lives of quiet desperation. They do not care how much you know till they know how much YOU CARE!
Be a bright, warm, caring difference in their day, their lives.
If you are a self-absorbed jerk really can’t do much for you till that strategy becomes clear to YOU it don’t work.
First Step, ME! Got to figure out DEEP INSIDE me what DRIVES ME!
Momma has Alzheimers, Dad Diabetes. Both of them health not good.
DRIVES ME RELENTLESSLY EVERYDAY. So far 3400% growth in my branch SO FAR! Days left in the month. CANI Constant And Neverending Improvement(starts with ME).
I find what makes me tick, then ask questions and make a Connection with another friend and feel what makes them tick.
One of my hobbies, collecting friends and collecting money, you ought to see the collection!!!!!
Shifterp(scott) OUT! too much rambling Dan? hehe results, not ingredients.
If you can’t pay-um luv-um… cool!
Congrats on your success and thanks for contributing.
I appreciate the concept. Recently I was watching one video where one professor set one computer in slum area and left them to do whatever they wanted to do. When he came back to know the progress, it was amazing. Slum youngsters and students were very confident to discuss about many things.
I do believe that too much guidance or suggestions hinder learning. We should leave kids, students to learn. I think, learning can be maximized by providing autonomy. I agree to your suggestions, that we should appreciate the ideas of people. Suggestions create restriction as it instil some kind of fear. But autonomy encourages them to explore. we should understand and practices such concepts.
I’ve been thinking about the connection between responsibility and freedom. If we want people to become responsible we must give them freedom. Protecting people prevents them from taking real responsibility. I found your approach to this interesting… Thanks
Thank you, Dan for giving us an easy to follow template for affirming those we are ‘leading’ As a wife, mother and grandmother(MorMor) I can incorporate the principles when with those I love on a daily basis. Thanks again.
Thanks MorMor… 🙂 Every child needs an affirming grandparent! Your’s are fortunate.
Cool idea. I’m curious what kinds of contexts have you done this? Where does it work best?
It works best with direct reports because it requires personal knowledge. Without personal knowledge I imagine things could become formulaic even manipulative.
I used it in the non profit world. I take the liberty to share it here based on the idea that Drucker espoused. We will have to treat employees like volunteers.
One result it the leadership team is also encouraged. There is something encouraging about encouraging others.
Because we only did it once a year there are no worries that it might be over done. There is plenty of opportunity on a daily basis to give both negative and positive feedback.
Affirmations are so powerful, especially when things are overly complicated. I’d add the following in to your process: have the team / individual talk about some small steps they are going to take in the following few days to build on the affirmations, i.e., do more of what’s already working.
I can see where your suggestion can be very useful. We made a conscious decision not to “pollute” the process with any sort of challenge. We wanted this to be something that stands apart from traditional feedback. Cheers
Great leaders know it is not about them, but the team. This is great! Thank you
Jim Rohn wrote about affirmations many years ago – “There is nothing wrong with affirmations provided we remember two important rules. First, we should never allow an affirmation to replace action. Feeling better is no substitute for doing better. And second, whatever we affirm must be the truth”.
Dan, your thoughts on affirmations hit the nail on the head. It’s a great idea to authentically implement affirmations while still creating action and results.
I hear you on good feelings aren’t an end in themselves. Good call.
Sincere affirmations that register in the heart as true bring out the best in people!
I’m struggling with this one a little bit, Dan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE believer in affirmations and “encouraging the heart.” But I feel it’s more meaningful to be alert for celebratory events, then seize the moment and give the affirmation on-the-spot.
I’m just not comfortable that the great majority of leaders could do what you’re suggesting without it seeming a little contrived. It would be very important that they do it on a consistent, recurring basis, so that people see the that leader is committed to it, and not just doing it because it’s the thing to do for the moment – the leadership tip du jour, so to speak.
I’m all for daily feedback. I don’t think of an annual affirmation session as feedback.
I find it very easy, after reflecting on a person, to come up with heart felt affirmations. I’d suggest if we can’t then that person isn’t making much of a contribution.
I’m glad you joined in… cheers
Am I disqualified as a leader if I have never done this before? I love the concept. There is a similar conversation that is based on the Quint Studer model. It’s called High Middle Low conversations. In that case, you would meet with each employee to explain where they are in the performance model; i.e. A high performer, a middle performer, or a low performer.
I think I’m going to look at this model though. I certainly don’t take enough time to praise.
Thanks Colby… if not doing this disqualifies us as leaders then we are all in trouble… I didn’t do this for many years.
I suggest that this meeting should be a stand alone event that has nothing to do with other forms of feedback or input.
I love this post. This is a strategy I used in the classroom frequently. I kept waiting for you to try and slide in the punch…but you didn’t.
Too often we use 1. Compliment 2. What you need to work on to improve. 3. Compliment.
No one believes this anymore. The compliments seem hollow. This is so much better.
Great point Dauna. I think the feedback sandwich is dead. Of course it’s ok to be polite and preface a negative with a positive. BUT, we all ignore the positives because we feel the negative coming. In this case, we lose the impact of the positive. I’m a fan of separating positive and negative feedback. By the way, we need three positive feedback moments to offset the emotional impact of one negative. We probably have a long way to go. Cheers
Can I come work for you? lol…
I’m a believer.
It’s similar, but a practice I’ve used is to have all the team members send me the best strengths they see in others on the team. Then I compile, and share with each person.
It’s only strengths and acknowledgement, no downside.
People get surprised by how others see them, but they also get validation of their skills, and in many cases, find a higher calling … as if the recognition reminds them they were born for something more.
I have a great mentor that does this on his annual reviews, I think your once a month suggestion is more effective.
This is a great post because I was talking to some people at work about this very topic! Positive affirmation can do wonders for employees and you would be surprised how much people are willing to work harder due to a positive environment.
It’s amazing how much one example of gratitude or appreciation can count, and the difference it can make. And when it’s written, it has even more staying power – many employees keep the hand-written thank you cards as mementos, and keep them somewhere visible. Giving thank you cards then encourages others to pass it on.
Yes! ‘it does as much for you as for them.’ What you study grows! Focus on what you want more of to strengthen the capacity/behavior/quality. The generative effect of constructing a social discourse that changes the narrative, changes a culture… and before you know, we’re looking for the good, the beautiful and the true. Way to go! Thanks for the reminder, Dan.