How to Create a Culture of Appreciation (Instead of Entitlement)

By Amber Lineback

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How to Create a Culture of AppreciationIt was a Sunday morning, so the store was pretty quiet — and I saw a collection of red-shirted Target team members gathered for what I presume is a daily stand-up huddle to strategize about the day.  As I’m selecting my tube socks within earshot of the group, the leader of that team started the meeting with, “Welcome back! Who’s got some appreciation to share?”

I was STUNNED.  They had me at appreciation.

The ensuing shout-outs came from all directions:

  •  “I saw Tommy help a woman find her toddler who had wandered away yesterday, assuring and comforting her the whole time. Kudos to him!”
  • “I want to thank Susanna for working through her break to help us complete the restocking on time.”
  • “I appreciate Ingrid for her energizing pep talk when I was so tired last Thursday.  Her energy is contagious!”

And on it went for nearly 5 minutes.

Needless to say, I was so busy listening that I couldn’t even focus on the socks I had been sure I needed. Anyone watching me would have pegged me as the most absent-minded wannabe athlete to ever walk the aisles of Target.

As someone who loves helping teams and organizations communicate more effectively, it was like watching the Sistine Chapel get painted.  I realized that the team leader knew a secret – his focus on appreciation was creating a culture of connection and commitment that didn’t cost him (or Target) a penny!

Tips for Creating a Culture of Appreciation

  • Catch ‘em doing it well (instead of noticing only when they do it wrong). 

    • There’s a funny thing about humans – we often find what we’re looking for. So if I view the world through a lens that’s always looking for fault, then by George, I’ll seek it out come heck or high water.  But if I believe that we can find something good in the behaviors of my teammates nearly every day, then I owe it to them to acknowledge it. (I did hire them, after all, so if I can’t find some good, that’s speaking loudly about me, not them).  Looking for the “wins” every day feels good…for everyone involved – including bystanders, as I experienced in the sock aisle at Target!
  • Pass along kudos.

    • Have you ever gotten a note from a customer or client that gives a “shout out” to one of your direct report’s contributions? If so, did you pass it along to them?  There’s no better shot in the arm than hearing that your work has made a difference…except perhaps also knowing that someone took the time to tell your manager. It’s a great (and free!) motivation and engagement tool, so don’t hesitate to share it. Bonus points: copy YOUR manager, too!
  • Thank others for thanking others.

    • When you notice your teammates thanking each other, thank them for calling it out.  It may sound simple, but they will continue to do what you (as their leader) rewards…and this includes expressing appreciation. In Target that day, each time someone shared a story of gratitude, the leader thanked him or her.  And guess what happened to me at checkout: the Target teammate thanked me for being a customer. Where did she learn to do that? You guessed it – the culture reinforced it. Did it matter? Well, I’ve been back several times since – often paying more than $100 just to park there!

These steps may sound simple – they are. And they’re worth it, as a culture of appreciation fosters commitment, engagement, and a willingness to go above and beyond when it counts (because your teammates will know it gets noticed). Appreciation breeds appreciation – and the vortex of gratitude becomes contagious. It’s the glue that holds a team (and often an entire organization!) together.

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