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Being appreciative without enabling mediocrity.

Being appreciative without enabling mediocrity.

Without a doubt, the least expensive and most powerful gift we can ever give someone is the gift of appreciation. It’s something I’ve always been good it, probably because my career started in hospitality, which is a highly service-oriented business. But I recently read an article about how I might also be unwittingly enabling a culture of mediocrity if my team feels too comfortable that I’m only seeing the positives. I am definitely a person who likes to convey positive messages but I am also alert enough to see what’s missing, what isn’t working and what isn’t up to high standards. For this reason, I learned as a young manager how to craft uncomfortable conversations with great forethought. It didn’t come naturally to me to immediately point out what’s not working or what’s not an acceptable work product. I’m probably this way because harsh criticism is a pain point for me. So, I reason, why wouldn’t it be for everyone?

Thankfully I’ve learned over the years that all people are different and some people will feel harmed if you don’t tell them what is acceptable and what is not. They actually want the feedback about what you want from them. Good, bad or ugly. It actually helps them perform. Many people do not have the same sensitivities that I have, so I’ve learned that each person has a different tolerance level for feedback. Indeed, some like it hot! Hot off the press that is. 

The lesson here is that we would be mistaken to assume others want what we want. We all have different pain points and it is wise to learn what they are through transparent communication. We’ve built a software product that helps people give and receive feedback much more often and notice that eventually, they start giving it directly in conversations. Our team is that way. We’ve evolved to working with a high degree of feedback right in the middle of our work and we all expect each other to express their needs right in real time. Which eliminates the need for feedback systems that require anonymity. The good news is that our own system got us there. And we’ve evolved. We’ve all become more tough-skinned, more authentic and expect everyone to manage their own feelings and ask for what they need. We may go back to the system at some point if we need to when new people come on board. But for now, we’re just being forthcoming and direct. And it feels good because expressing appreciation in no way implies that we can get away with less than stellar work. And everyone is committed to that high standard too. It’s become part of our culture.