As I’m gaining more leadership roles around my school in conjunction with taking leadership classes, it’s probably an understatement to say that leadership has been on my mind. I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good leader from my textbooks as well as the experience I’ve gained in my new roles. 

While there are many important leadership qualities to have, one that I think is so important, especially during this time of the year, is the ability to show appreciation.

Here’s why I believe showing appreciation can be a cornerstone of running a successful team:

1. People thrive on being recognized. Just as positive words and affirmation encourage our students to keep up the behavior we like to see in our classrooms, adults are wired the same way. If you truly like what you see, let that person know. The chance that they continue doing this desired thing is much higher. I encourage you to be specific in your appreciation because general “thank you” blanket statements may not be as effective or genuine. Since it is typically their responsibility, leaders are often prone to look for issues that need solved; to balance this, it is important that leaders are mindful about looking for positive things to praise.

2. Showing thankfulness, followed by a correction, is an easy way to fix a mistake without ruining a positive relationship. Especially whenever you know that someone is doing their best, giving them a correction can sometimes come across as being ungrateful and can therefore hurt feelings or ruin a relationship that took time to build. If you find something that can improve or needs to be fixed, try to also point out that you are thankful, first. Example: “Thank you so much for your hard work on this project you were assigned. I see you turned your part of the project in early, and this timeliness really impresses me. There was one part that I’d like to draw your attention to. (Point it out and explain the problem.) Would you be able to fix this now that I’ve clarified the expectation?”

3. Spreading thankfulness defines the culture of your organization or group. I’ve noticed that negative energy, such as complaining, really dissolves whenever the team members are built up and encouraged. Even the toughest of challenges and circumstances, when met with appreciation, can create an enjoyable environment. Just as smiles are contagious, positive energy is too. If a leader enters the room and people know they will feel encouraged, they are more likely to show kindness and appreciation to each other, too. An appreciation set-up like this is often at the leader’s fingertips to model first; then, others will follow and a positive culture will be created. A positive culture can also result in a more productive and successful environment because your team members will learn to lean on each other to accomplish the tasks.

While saying “thank you” can certainly be enough, leaders are often also short on time, and schedules don’t always line up for these conversations. If you don’t have enough time to meet with each person individually, leaving a message or a little sign of gratitude in their classroom, mailbox, or office can also go a long way. Notes, sweet treats, or gift cards show that you were thoughtful and thankful. 

These “you’re the sweetest” m&m’s will serve as thank you’s for a team of teachers I lead at my school. I’m going to put them in their mailboxes next week.

No matter how you do it, showing that you appreciate someone is an easy, yet effective skill for a leader to possess. How do you show appreciation in your leadership roles?

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