‘Tis the season when most business leaders start thinking about two things; end of year numbers and employee appreciation. Whether it’s delivered in the form of a bonus, holiday gift, or just a card or email message, we associate the last couple of months of the year with a need to show our gratitude for the humans who make up the phenomenon we call a “team.”
It’s no secret that people like to feel appreciated. And we know that profits depend on people being motivated to stay, engage, and really own their outcomes so it’s reasonable to believe that giving them something they like might influence their behavior and possibly impact profits.
That’s true. But it’s the tip of the iceberg. The real cause and effect of what most people refer to as “appreciation” goes much deeper and carries far more significance than we were taught in Business 101.
Humans come with some basic needs pre-installed. Like a sunflower is designed to need a certain amount of sun, water, nutrients, and space to grow, humans also have natural and innate needs that directly impact our ability to actualize our full potential. The framework we most commonly refer to is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but unlike the sunflower, humans form teams – groups of individuals striving together toward a common goal. And being part of a team brings those human needs into a different configuration.
While Maslow’s Hierarchy is a framework for understanding the needs that must be met in order for an individual human to self-actualize, I’ve identified a slightly different framework that applies in a group dynamic. I call this framework The Six Facets of Human Needs™ because there are six needs that are essential to building self-actualized teams.
The truth is that being appreciated, or even simply being shown consideration, which is the word I use to categorize this need in The Human Team, So You Created a Team but People Showed Up, is one of those needs. It’s a pre-requisite for the humans on the team to reach their performance potential which of course, is directly related to the company reaching its profit potential.
On the battleground Napoleon is rumored to have said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a piece of colored ribbon.”
Which doesn’t mean you can get people to work harder or stay longer or perform better for a piece of ribbon. Remember that to a soldier that wasn’t a piece of ribbon, it was an emblem of courage and loyalty, even greatness in battle. It meant something. And soldiers would go to great lengths and take great risks, in part, because they were shown the consideration of being recognized and rewarded for their contribution.
In the workplace some humans on your team will value the equivalent of the colored ribbon. They want to receive public recognition and a tangible representation of what they bring to the table. Others will crave the quiet and sincere word of praise, or the half day of flex time so that they can see their kid perform in the school play. The point is that consideration isn’t being nice and it isn’t having a system for recognizing or your team. It’s showing that you are aware of each of them as a human being and that you value their humanity. People will go to great lengths to receive that simple consideration, especially from their leader or manger.
So, this season I challenge you to do more than choose a way to “appreciate” people. Choose to notice them, what matters, what means something. Then do that. And not just during this “giving season” but all year round.
When you do, you’ll find that humans, just like the sunflower, blossom and deliver a harvest when their needs are met. And not only will you be working with humans that know their uniqueness is considered and appreciated, you’ll be working with humans who are willing to “fight long and hard” to turn in the kind of performances that result in increased profits.