I’m coming off a whirlwind of events where I had the opportunity to share my passion for creating more human workplaces by helping millions of employees feel noticed, valued, and appreciated for who they are as well as for what they do. As always at these events, I learned more from the other speakers and from conversations with attendees. So here I share with you my two biggest takeaways from the events.
Lesson 1: We all need validation
At the IQPC CHRO Exchange, one breakout session led by BraveShift was particularly innovative in that it had top HR executives sit in a circle and discuss together how we can improve trust in the workplace. I was fascinated to watch the conversation develop and build among these professionals who so very clearly care about their employees and the work experience they help to create for them.
One participant shared powerful insight from a keynote delivered by Oprah Winfrey at another event. To give full credit to Oprah, I’ve found a similar reference when she spoke at a Harvard University commencement:
“What we want, the common denominator that I found in every single interview, is we want to be validated. We want to be understood.
I have done over 35,000 interviews in my career and as soon as that camera shuts off everyone always turns to me and inevitably, in their own way, asks this question, ‘Was that okay?’ I heard it from President Bush, I heard it from President Obama. I’ve heard it from heroes and from housewives. I’ve heard it from victims and perpetrators of crimes. I even heard it from Beyonce and all of her Beyonceness. She finishes performing, hands me the microphone and says, ‘Was that okay?’
Friends and family, yours, enemies, strangers in every argument in every encounter, every exchange I will tell you, they all want to know one thing: Was that okay? Did you hear me? Do you see me?”
As humans, we need to know that we are seen, that we are valued, that we bring value to others. This is a universal human truth.
Often in strategy sessions I lead, I’m asked, “At what level to do we exclude participation?” This is usually in reference to senior-most leaders. As the leader of my group, Derek Irvine, has often said, “The only factor determining who needs recognition is if you are human. I’ve yet to reach a point in my career where I didn’t appreciate or need recognition of my contributions.”
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Lesson 2: We are all capable of giving validation to others through recognition and appreciation
The Greater Good Science Center (based at University of California, Berkley) hosted a wonderful one-day conference on Gratitude and Well-Being at Work. (Do yourself a favor and check out their online courses and tools. I can personally vouch for their free, eight-week MOOC on the science of happiness for a deep dive into the research and outcomes of practicing gratitude and happiness.) Through multiple keynote presentations and breakout sessions, attendees dived deeply into the many aspects of bringing gratitude into the workplace and the benefits of doing so.
One thread of thought, most heavily emphasized by author Mike Robbins, was the concept that there is a difference between recognition and appreciation. From Mike’s perspective, recognition is about results while appreciation is about people. It’s a good point, but we shouldn’t lose in the nuance that both are intensely important in the workplace. We need to acknowledge and praise people for both what they do as well as who they are. And we all have the power to do so.
Remember, at its essence, saying “thank you” is the same as saying, “I see you. I see what you do. You are valuable.”
During this season of gratitude, who are the people in your life – at work and at home – you can validate through your appreciation and recognition?
You can find more about recognition and appreciation on Recognize This!