Part 2 – How to build a culture of appreciation

In my last post, I advocated for looking for things to appreciate in yourself, to practice recognizing and acknowledging those traits that you share with others but express them in ways that are uniquely you. In this post, I will dig deeper into the strength of appreciation and then suggest ways to use appreciation to the benefit of your team. Building a culture of appreciation builds rapport, a sense of inclusion and well-being for you and for those around you, and you don’t need to be in charge to help make it happen. 

As a reminder, appreciation of beauty and excellence (a.k.a. appreciation) is seeing the best in people and the things around us!

 Research shows that appreciation has three components.

  1. Appreciating natural beauty – experiencing awe and wonder
  2. Appreciation of skill and talent – experiencing admiration
  3. Appreciation of virtue and good deeds by others – experiencing elevation and inspiration

Dacher Keltner, the resident expert on the awe aspect of appreciation at the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkley, points to research that shows that spending one minute looking up at the trees make us more likely to help someone in need than spending one minute looking at tall buildings (Keltner, 2016). He tells us that awe is an evolutionary phenomenon that is good for our minds, bodies, and, maybe most importantly, our social connections. What could be more helpful to a team?

What about the other components of appreciation? As I mentioned last time, research shows that appreciation is not used a great deal at work even though many of us rank it high in our strengths profiles (Money, Hillenbrand, & Camara, 2008). It is often associated with appreciating nature, art, or skillful performances. Also, it is that last definition that is useful in teams in the workplace.

Obstacles to using our appreciation at work

In working with clients who have discovered this strength among their top five, I have often heard them lament, “I never thought of that as a strength!” One young woman (character strength of appreciation #1) told a group coaching session that she regularly takes walks in the local park to clear her head, improve her mood, and marvel at nature all around her. It helps her feel more connected to her team and to the purpose of the project. She was astonished to find that we are not all moved the same way.

Another member of the same group (character strength of appreciation #3) mentioned how much they love to see someone at the top of their game – whether that be a musician, a scientist, a sports person or… a work colleague nailing some task or a new skill. When asked whether they ever tell their colleague how much they appreciate them, the answer came back, “No, they know already what they have accomplished right? They don’t want to hear it from me!”

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