“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life.  Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”  Margaret Cousins

AppHand with growing graph and people standing with world mapreciation means to increase in value.  We understand the concept of appreciation in the financial realm, yet increasing the value of others is not as clear. Rather than talk about the “how to’s”, let me describe the necessary mindsets.

Here are 5 that create an appreciation-friendly atmosphere.

1. Culture – Culture is what happens by default if there is not intentional effort to create the one you want.  Every organization – large and small – has a culture.  Even every family has a culture.  Where 2 or more people are gathered for any length of time, a culture exists.  It has been referred to as the personality of the organization, group, or family.  Often people don’t recognize it’s existence, but it is a major driver of behavior. Most people cannot describe what their culture is, any more than a fish (if they could talk), could tell you what water is.  As a result, any attempt to appreciate or add value to others will hit roadblocks unless the culture supports it. That’s because culture is like the oxygen we breath.  If the atmosphere is one of fear, mistrust, or toxic competition, it will be hard to add value to others without cleaning up the air.  If the focus is on what is wrong or broken, appreciation is more difficult. If the focus is on looking for the best in others, then appreciation is encouraged.   Your group culture either advances or inhibits appreciation.

2. Gratitude – Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns meals into feasts, and strangers into friends.  Those who are grateful are the best at adding value to others through appreciation.  It is heartfelt and specific.  When we realize how much we’ve been given, we have so much more to give.  The more valuable we feel, the more value we can add.  In fact, we can’t help but do this.  When the cup of life is full and running over, others become fortunate recipients of the splashes of recognition and value.  It’s almost automatic.  The appreciation comes with a subtle message that says, “I will not soon forget what you did.” Appreciation is really gratitude in action.

3. Margin – Without margin in our schedule it becomes difficult to do the important things.  We live in a world of “spinning plates.” When we solve one problem, we leap to the next.  With our frantic pace it’s easy to become a victim of the urgent things, while ignoring the important things.  Important things are rarely urgent and therefore get shortchanged.  Doing things quicker is no substitute for doing the right thing.  That’s like saying, “We are losing 5 cents on each sale, but we’ll make it up in volume.” As Confucius said, “He who burns the candle at both ends is not too bright.”

4. Diversity – Celebrate the differences that exist among people.  Don’t let a personal preference or strength become a weakness.  When we appreciate the differences in others our personal strengths increase.  It’s good to have “clarity” about your strengths and preferences, but not “rigidity.” When we embrace diversity, we also appreciate divergence and dissent.   Lockstep thinking leads to dysfunction, where anyone different is somehow inferior.  This attitude is not appreciation-friendly, and adds no value to either party.  Our differences can lead to celebration or intimidation. Choose celebration.

5. Rituals – Establish rituals to highlight and commemorate successes, accomplishments, effort and personal celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones).  One organization put together Stress Support Kits.  If someone was working on a difficult project they received the kit.  It included aspirin, a comedy DVD, wind up toys and a stress ball.  You can design your own — families included.  The ritual helps send the message that what they are going through is both known and appreciated.   A ritual could be a “wall of fame”, for a noteworthy accomplishment.  The point is to recognize and appreciate others for their efforts.  Rituals provide reminders that help structure appreciation and add value to people’s lives.

The practice of appreciation is a powerful art.  When a person feels genuinely appreciated, their connection, response, performance, and production increase.  This in turn increases the value of the organization, group, or family.  It’s the language of appreciation and it takes practice to become fluent.  And rest assured, the fluency will pay big dividends.

When you put a smile on someone’s face, it can’t help but put a smile on yours.