The very next day he struck out on his two feet. This little guy does not start with one single step; he prefers four to five at a time. And of course, when he did it, the crowd went wild!
As I’ve pondered not only the wonder of his learning to walk, and all his other little milestones, I thought about how readily we acknowledge his accomplishments and work hard to give him the confidence to continue to take risks and try new things. We all laugh at how one little boy, not yet thirteen months old, can have a whole group of us watching him, thanking him for handing us a toy, exclaiming ‘good job’ as he climbs stairs or carefully enunciating as he tries new ‘words’. This of course led me to wonder when this kind of acknowledgement stops.
It would be silly of course to have our co-workers gather around our desks and clap each time we completed a report. And it would drive us crazy if someone followed us up and down the aisles of the grocery store, loudly commenting ‘good job!’ each time we placed an item in our cart. On the other hand, the adult world would be a pretty silent place if the only sounds we heard were those made in praise or acknowledgement. We simply stop using this muscle. Yet in this case the silence is not golden. In fact, it feels lonely.
Global studies state that 79% of people who leave their workplace do so because they feel unappreciated. Imagine. Seventy-nine percent! It turns out that these people do not necessarily dislike the work they do. They do not dislike their pay. They do not dislike their holiday time. Or at least they do not dislike these things enough to leave. The thing that drives them away, is not feeling valued. Once they begin to feel undervalued and unacknowledged, they begin to disengage. It’s not a long walk from disengagement to leaving. Maybe four or five steps. With no one noticing. How is it possible that as a society, we go from clapping for a human being taking a step, to ignoring competent, kind, hard working people in our lives.
I took this one step further in my thinking. Since we’re not doing a great job of expressing appreciation in the workplace, is it possible that we are doing an equally poor job of expressing it in our personal lives, with our families and friends?
Most of us don’t want or need praise or acknowledgment for tasks we do. What we do crave is for someone to notice us. Not in a superficial way, but in a way that lets us know we are valued, truly seen, and appreciated.
In the case of the workplace, we shouldn’t be surprised to know that not all leaders are created equally. Very often people are promoted to a leadership position because they have done their regular job well. They do not necessarily have leadership training or intuition. They may never have realized what an impact they could have by simply taking time to notice what goes into their employees’ efforts. What is underneath the actions. What they hope to be noticed for.
The rest of us should not expect to be excused for not knowing. We know what it is like to feel invisible. We also all know what it is like to be seen for the person we value being. Every human being craves being valuable, needed and important. From small children to CEO’s, we each want to know someone’s world is better because we are in it.
This week, I challenge you to step out and make time to show one person you value them. Not superficially (you did a good job), not absentmindedly, not casually. Really, stop, identify what would make them feel seen, and let them know. Clap for their steps. Cheer for their stair climbing. Listen carefully to their every word. Inside, they have the same desire to feel like as important a part of the group as little Ben.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What can I acknowledge?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is also the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership programs and personal coaching for individuals and teams.