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The five languages of appreciation for product managers
Dr. Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and leadership trainer who “makes work relationships work.” For the past 20 years, he’s improved numerous businesses, schools, government agencies, and non-profit organizations by helping them:
- Create positive workplace relationships and improve staff morale.
- Eliminate the cynicism, sarcasm, and lack of trust that often are associated with traditional employee recognition programs.
- Overcome the obstacles to help staff communicate authentic appreciation to one another.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[5:03] You recently wrote The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. What is appreciation and why is it important?
Appreciation is feeling valued for what you do or who you are. Stephen Covey said that appreciation is the highest need beyond physical survival. As opposed to employee recognition, which motivates toward specific goals, appreciation helps people feel valued for who they are.
[6:37] What are the benefits of appreciating our colleagues?
Appreciation does much more than just make people feel good. We have over fifty citations of research that shows the return-on-investment of appreciation. When team members feel valued, absenteeism and staff turnover go down and productivity and profitability go up. Appreciation is the oil in the machine that helps things running smoothly with less friction and less sparks.
Let’s talk about the five languages of appreciation.
[10:39] #1 Words of Affirmation (preferred by 46% of employees)
When using words that affirm a person’s value, be specific. Don’t just say “good job.”
- Use the person’s name.
- Specify what they’ve done that you value.
- Tell why their action is important to you.
[11:56] #2 Quality Time (preferred by 26% of employees)
Quality time doesn’t have to take long. Just a few minutes can mean a lot. Quality time can take two forms…
- Focused attention—some people like to meet one-on-one to share and listen. It’s important you are not distracted.
- Peer interactions—others people, especially younger employees, prefer time with several colleagues, e.g., going to lunch together.
[13:02] #3 Acts of Service (preferred by 22% of employees)
Acts of service isn’t rescuing a low-performing colleague. Instead, consider serving a colleague working on a time-limited project. For example…
- Doing some work they delegate.
- Running interference with their email or phone calls.
- Bringing in meals so they can keep working.
[14:00] #4 Tangible Gifts (preferred by 6% of employees)
Tangible gifts does not mean raises and bonuses. It’s small things that show you’re getting to know your team members. For example…
- Their favorite cup of coffee.
- A gift card, especially for something you know they enjoy.
- Magazines related to their hobby.
- Pair tangible gifts with another appreciation language to make it more impactful.
[16:06] #5 Physical Touch (preferred by 1% of employees)
We struggled with whether to keep this in, but we did because…
- We don’t want to advocate a touchless society. Appropriate physical touch can be meaningful in an appropriate setting.
- Physical touch does happen in the workplace, usually as spontaneous celebration such as a high-five.
[18:15] How can we identify which language of appreciation someone prefers?
You can ask someone how you can show them appreciation, although that can be an awkward conversation, and you may not learn much. It works better to ask people how they are encouraged since this is similar to appreciation, but we tend to be more in touch with what encourages us. You can also observe how they show appreciation, although we found that 25% of the time people communicate appreciation using a different language from how they prefer to receive appreciation. We have an inventory that identifies people’s preferred appreciation languages along with specific actions they’d like and from whom they want that action. You can take this inventory and our training with your team. Our training helps the whole team become involved in communicating appreciation.
[21:22] What happens if you use the wrong appreciation language with someone?
This can be a problem. For example, in the general workforce, 40% of people do not want to be recognized in front of a large group. They know you mean well, but for these people employee recognition wouldn’t effectively show appreciation.
A person’s preferred language of appreciation is also the way they’re most easily offended.Don’t fake it. You need to be sincere and real. Learn to actually appreciate people. You can value them as people even if you don’t value their performance. Build trust and loyalty by communicating your appreciation for something not associated with their work. Point out their cheerful personality, discipline in training for a marathon, or commitment to their kids.
[26:04] How is communicating appreciation affected by remote working?
A couple of years ago, we studied 88,000 people, some working onsite and some remote, to see if there is a difference in how they want to be shown appreciation. We found that remote workers want to touch base at least occasionally by video. In onsite settings, you might see someone for a few minutes in the break room or stick your head into their office to check in, but when working remotely, you have to be proactive about seeking out communication. It’s key that some of your communication be personal. It’s good to communicate about work tasks, but also interact at a personal level. At the beginning and end of a video call, have time to chat.
Action Guide: Put the information Paul shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Paul’s website for info about the book, inventory, and training materials
- View The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace on Amazon
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” – John D. Rockefeller
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.