You could be two words away from a big win

You could be two words away from a big win

Have you ever been thanked for your work? How did that make you feel?

Team or otherwise

Whether work or various social activies, the chances are you're probably interacting with other people in some way. We're going to focuson on a "team" type of situation, but I feel this could also be applied to other sitatuions outside of team relations. I'm a "new" manager. If you feel you're an expert in people management, then great! Personally, I'm aware I have plenty to learn.

A few weeks ago, the JSON Schema team had an in person meeting for the first time. (It was great!) In preparing a two day agenda, I was reading a number of Pip Deck tactic cards. I've talked about the Storyteller Tactics before, twice, and I'm positive I've seen some improvement in my storytelling. One of the decks, Idea Tactics, aims to provide situational constraints to help come up with ideas.

I took a fair amount of advice in preparing for the team meeting, including the suggestion to "not use tricks", allowing discussion and actionable results to flow freely. While I have some theories on when and how that works vs when you need to be more "trick heavy", I felt we achieved a good amount for the limited time. One of the "tricks" or "tactics" in the Idea Tactics deck is "Human Truths".

Reading a Pip Deck card titled "Human Truths", reminded me that people (mostly) have a primal desire to belong to a group. We see this a lot in society, and in the workplace. One aspect of being part of a group (let's say team) is being seen. Showing recognition for good work is one of the ways in which people can be "seen" and appreciated.

Do you appreciate your team?

"68% of employees haven't received any form of recognition for good work in the last year." - Gallup, 2016.

Is team recognition and apprecation only a managers job? Not at all. Although some ways of showing appreciation such as bonuses or promotions are usually only in reach of your manager as opposed to your colleagues. If you are a manager, making the case for a bonus or promotion might require quite a lot of effort.

Another tactic card I reviewed for our team meeting, which we ended up using, was the Impact Effort Map from the Workshop Tactics deck (although it's also found in the Team Tactics deck). I grant you, it's not a new approach, but it is a useful one I don't remember seeing before. Ploting an axis of high to low vertically for effort, and low to high horizontally for impact, you place task on the graph. If the task appears in the top right, you have a low-effort high-impact task. These are "big wins".

(I felt a little validated when I discovered the "Appreciation Playbook" tactic suggeseted using the Impact Effort Map to help work out what to do first after thinking about recognition.)

The two word big win

Of course, you can't always do the big wins first, but when you can, or if it's an ongoing action, it feels a bit silly NOT to realise the action.

In thinking about recognition, I wondered, based on what I can do as a manager for my team, what are the "big wins"? And, I found one.

Just saying "Thank you". Two words.

OK, so I'm cheating a little here. You should probably say more than just those two words, assuming you want to build a relationship with them.

Saying thanks? Really?

The team I manage are top shelf. They are amoung the best at what they do. I don't always give lots of direction, because I expect them to know or discovery what needs doing and prioritise accordingly. While having a bit of a hands off approach to mangement, I asked, will saying "thank you" really have any imapct on such a team?

I'm still learning the manager/report relationship. I have to think about my own expereince and feelings, and less on what I feel like others SHOULD feel, as those sometimes don't align.

I reflected back to my previous job. I was working on a service which was genuinly a very good cause and wasn't directly making someone any profit. People didn't pay to use the system for example. I thought back to the time when I was recognised and how that impacted me. I sometimes felt the work I did was unseen, and therefore not valued. That hurt my morale, and that hits productivity. When I was recognised with a thank you, it hugley impacted how I felt in terms of being seen and valued.

However, a word of caution. Thanking a whole team for a specific project can feel like a big win, being low effort, however, unless you're sure everyone on the team contributed, then you're going to be making a group of people even less seen and less valued.

This leads me to think that you have to really know what each member of your team (or teams in your department) are really doing in order to thank them properly, and personally. Regular check-ins and 1:1s can help with that.

It turns out, I'm not alone in feeling positive about being appreciated!

"Employees in a recognition-focused organisation are five times more likely to feel valued, six times more likely to invest in the company, seven times more likely to stay, and 11 times more likely to feel completely satisfied. - Gallup, 2016." - Thanks to Pip Decks for providing this nugget of info!

Let's go over how you can say thank you a little later.

It's the least you could do

Of course, there are many other ways you can recognise the team and individuals for good work. If you care for your team, saying "thank you" in a meaningful and personal way is the literal least you can do. It's a "big win", aka low-effort high-impact.

Seriously, make a point to find out what people are individually working on, and find something you can thank them for. Heck, it might even be their attitudes or other displayed company values! Do not under estimate the value you're adding to your team by letting people know THEY are valued and their efforts are seen.

How to say thank you

I ask my team to report in their big wins, collaborations, blockers, and such, on a weekly basis, into our slack server. I've had reasonable success and quality from this. Not only does it give me visibility and touch points for discussion (and connecting up with others for collaboration), but it gives me a chance to appreciate them for their work directly.

"Thank you for doing X, I really appreciate the effort it took, and I understand it provided value to Y". I'm not suggesting you use that exact template, and I don't deliberatly template these messages, but we can break it down into what we need to know and how to apply it.

You need to know what the result of the action was. What value did it add? Did it enable someone else? Did it help bring in a six figure contract? Did it improve relations with a key industry partner? Identify the value the action provided. Show the individual you understand the value they provide and why you're thanking them. This is critical to making the thanks authentic, and for them to feel seen.

You need to know what the individual actually did. It seems silly and obvious, but consider the impact if you said "Thank you for helping bring in that contact", when the individual had no involvement. This is the pitfall I mentioned earlier. Failure to avoid this will have the oposite of the desired effect, making the individually feel LESS seen and LESS valued. Yuck.

You need to actually say thank you. Isn't that more obvious than the last? Maybe, but thinking about HOW you say thank you in different ways will add to the authenticity. You want your reports to know you actually appreciate their work, and not that you're just paying lip service and checking a box.

Peers, this is for you too

If you're not a manager, you can still have a positive impact on your team. You might be a team lead, and with that usually comes with some moral responsibilities. If you're part of the team, you can increase that team cohesion by making people feel appreciated and seen within the team, and not just by management.

While I haven't directly mentioned relational investment, it is linked to the primal desire to belong. Today we've looked at a tiny fraction of how you can impact that within a very specific setting, but it can apply more broadly too.

Saying thank you is the least you can do, so let's be deliberate about being thankful and recognise individuals for the work the do.

Photo by Nicolas Cool on Unsplash

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