Well done! The Art of Acknowledgement

May 08, 2011 at 8:24 PM

Do you remember when your parents told you you looked ‘gorgeous’, even though you had a spot the size of an orange on your forehead?  When your college lecturer told you your rendering of Julius Caesar in the Shakespeare soliloquy competition was ‘abslutely super’ but the prize went to the guy who played Bottom?  Or when your boss said ‘Great!’ to the statistics you sweated over for days,  but put it in the in-tray, where it is still gathering dust? 

People like to pay compliments because they want to be kind, but is this general praise the best way to bring on a child, an adolescent, a team member, a potential leader?

Some people find it very difficult to accept a compliment that is truly meant; but more often it is the way that praise is given that will make the difference between a remark that is hardly noticed (or disblieved) and an honest appraisal of our performance. A better way to describe helpful praise is the word ‘acknowledgement’.

To ‘acknowledge’ means giving careful and meaningful feedback to someone for special qualities possessed by that person, or for their particular efforts in a piece of work, sporting event or wherever they have excelled. Acknowledgement differs from praise which is more general and, in some cases, superficial and automatic – what is expected as a cultural habit rather than expressed genuinely from the heart. The effect of acknowledgement on the ‘acknowledgee’ is more profound than praise because it is likely to feed into a person’s value system: something they know, deep down, is true about themselves and are delighted to hear recognised.

ASKING FOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Next time someone says to you, ‘Good work!”, thank them, then do a little probling!
 
For example – you’ve delivered a report that was requested of you at short notice, and you’ve delivered it on the nail. What might the phrase ‘Good work!’ actually mean?  Ask the right questions and you’ll find out. For example:
 
 What was it that was particularly good about the report?
   -  Was it because it was on time?
   -  Well written?
   -  Well researched?
   -  Logically argued?
  -   Anything else? I’d like to know where you think my strengths are

In this way you will learn what your boss or colleague thinks of your approach and challenge him or her to think more carefully about your role in the team and where you might be useful in future.  You are ‘managing upwards’.

Ask too: ‘Where do you think I could improve my work?   The effect of this is to show your eagerness to progress, to learn and to move onwards and upwards.

GIVING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Wherever you are in the heirarchy right now, one day you could well be at the top.  So now is the time, not only to understand your strengths and be acknowledged, but also to start practising giving acknowledgement. Once you start appraising your colleagues, your boss and those who report to you, you are on your way to being a true leader because true leaders care about people.

Acknowledging the boss
Many managers and senior managers suffer from a lack of appreciation from their own bosses, simply because these bosses in their turn have never been appreciated themselves and so have not learnt how to give acknowledgement to their own team. They only talk to their teams when something has gone wrong.  To understand this is another step on the ladder to leadership. To be acknowledged by a team member will help give that manager security and make him or her a better manager.

This does not mean ‘sucking up’ or ‘grovelling’! It means judicious acknowledgement where this is due. So when, and only when, you notice that your boss has managed something particularly well and that the team has benefited, say so and make it an occasion to ask for guidance or offer your help.  For instance,  ‘I was impressed with the way you put our department’s case forward to the Production Director. How do you think we could present ourselves in this area in future? What could the team (or I) do to help?’ In this way you’ve acnowledged your boss and put yourself forward as a supporter.

Acknowledge your team members
Take every opportunity to acknowledge the work and skills of your team members, whatever your position within that team.  The others will soon catch on and this will help bond the team and make it more effective.

Acknowledgment not blame
The other side of the ‘acknowledgement’ coin is not to engage in blame. If someone has messed up, unless it’s your job to take them to task, keep quiet. Save your words for handing out the bouquets, so that your colleagues only hear the positive messages. that’s what will help them grow.

Little things mean a lot
Learning to ask for acknowledgement and to give it where it is due is part of a larger picture: the picture that includes courtesy, kindness and mutual support for your team members, including the leader of that team and the person who makes the tea. It is part of valuing each person equally for the part they play in the smooth running of your team. And that will be even more true as you climb your career ladder. The quicker you take this on, the more you will be noticed.  Real leaders are those who value people.

Conclusion
• Acknowledge particular skills or attributes rather than give general praise
• Acknowledge all members of your team, from your boss to the person who
     makes the coffee
• Make acknowledgement part of the courteous way you treat your team and
     colleagues. It goes along with a pleasant greeting, remembering personal
     details and everything else that makes your relationship with your team
     members real, human and tangible.

Coach: Edwina Biucchi

©2011 Plus Partnership



Tags: Coaching Feedback Performance Management
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Your story was ralely informative, thanks!
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