Who do we appreciate?

    Business Spotlight Audio 9/2023
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    Von Frank Peters

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    At the end of a team workshop (or a long meeting), it’s often a nice idea to give everyone in the team the chance to to speak upsich äußernspeak up and say a few words. It might be some feedback about the workshop or a highlight of the time the group spent together — or something completely different.

    Recently, at the end of a two-day team workshop, I asked one person in the team to pull out a card from a box at randomnach dem Zufallsprinzipat random. Written on the card was an activity that everybody should do. (I always have these kinds of question/activity cards with me.) In this case, the task was: to pay a complimentein Kompliment machen, ein Lob aussprechenpay a compliment to the person on your left.

    There was complete silence in the room. Suddenly, everyone was to be supposed to do sth.etw. tun sollensupposed to think of something complimentary to say about one of their colleagues and, surprisingly, this seemed to make most of the participants feel uncomfortable.

    The art of praise

    Why is that? Why do we often find it hard to compliment or praise someone? It’s possible that some of the participants didn’t know each other that well, so they may have been unsure of what to say. Many people might want to praise one of their co-workers but worry that it could backfirefehlschlagenbackfire and lead to an embarrassingpeinlichembarrassing situation. Others said they were trying to think of something specific to say rather than(an)statt, und nichtrather than something genericallgemein; hier: banalgeneric or superficialoberflächlichsuperficial.

    And there was one manager in the group who clearly wasn’t used to showing his appreciationAnerkennung, Wertschätzungappreciation — he thought if he gave his employees too much praise, they would start asking for a raiseGehaltserhöhungraise or a promotionBeförderungpromotion. Hmm.

    Sometimes, one innocentharmlosinnocent question can cause a lot of awkwardunbehaglich; hier: betretenawkward silence. In cases like this, you might want to intervene to help get things moving. For example, have the participants first praise themselves. That should be much easier, theoretically, but many people struggle with this, too.

    As a team coach, I find this quite interesting. The same phenomenon comes up again and again: many people are very critical of their own performance and find it hard to praise themselves — and this often makes it difficult for them to give praise to others.

    A second attempt

    If you include this activity in a workshop, allow plenty of time, to give everyone the chance to think about themselves, and provide some examples of praise: “I spontaneously adapted the workshop scheduleAblaufplanschedule to your needs.” “I trained your communication skills and entertained you at the same time.” “I managed our time well today.”

    This will help the participants to come up with some good things to say about themselves: “I listened carefully during the partner exercise.” “I always returned on time after the breaks.”

    Have everyone read their compliments about themselves aloud and you’ll probably feel the energy in the room rise with each new statement. When I do this exercise, I usually see people smiling and to nod in agreementzustimmend nickennodding in agreement.

    Now, return to the original task: pay a work-related compliment to the person on your left. The participants will find this much easier now — for two reasons: first, they’ve already mastered the task once. Saying something nice about themselves will to pave the wayden Weg bahnen; hier: die Voraussetzungen schaffenpave the way to doing so for others. Second, in each case, all they have to do is listen carefully to the praise their neighbour chooses to give themself, and then more or less repeat it. What’s interesting, however, is that most of the participants don’t take the easy option, but find something new to say.

    By the second attempt, in most cases, everyone will come up with genuineecht, authentischgenuine praise for their neighbour. Again, you’ll find that the energy in the room rises, and a preciouswertvollprecious piece of mutualgegenseitigmutual appreciation is a great ending for any workshop.

    Appreciation activation

    There’s a useful exercise that you can try, which is sometimes called “The Shower of Praise”. Have everyone sit in a semicircleHalbkreissemicircle, facing the first volunteerFreiwillige(r)volunteer. The task is for people to write down something they to appreciate sb.jmdn. anerkennen, wertschätzenappreciate about this person (the volunteer). After a few minutes, each person in the semicircle reads out their praise, for example: “I admire how patient you are with clients on the phone” or “I think you always show a lot of empathy and give constructive feedback.” Then, they go over and hand the piece of paper to that person.

    Make sure you allow enough time to complete the exercise. In larger teams, or if people aren’t used to giving praise, it might take a little longer, and you don’t want to rush through it. After the first round, another person can take their turn in the middle.

    There are a number of variations on this exercise, so feel free to adapt it any way you like. If the set-upAnordnungset-up of a semicircle and paying individual compliments in front of the whole team is not right for you (or takes too long), you can try a more discreet variation that uses envelopeUmschlagenvelopes that have the names of the team members on them. Everyone is encouraged to write praise about another team member and put it in their envelope during the workshop. It’s always great to see people’s faces when they open their envelopes at the end.

    Depending on your goal for the session, you can choose a narrow or a wide focus of the praise. Sometimes, it makes sense to ask for praise that relates to the specific workshop you’re taking part in — and that’s a nice way to round things off. Or, you can keep it broader and ask for general praise. Then, you can also do it at any time.

    With many possible variations, you’re free to shape the exercise as you wish, investing more time and going deeper according to your needs. It has the benefit that people start to think about themselves and how they contribute to the team, as well as show their appreciation for their co-workers. It’s great to include it in a long meeting or workshop to create a trusting atmosphere and lay the foundationdie Grundlagen schaffenlay the foundation for more intensive work together. Just always keep compliments professional, not personal. Praise should always be work-related.


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