It’s often said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bosses

It’s often said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bosses.  That has lead me to wonder why.  We all know of horror stories involving verbal abuse and even harassment from a boss.  That kind of behavior tends to get noticed, talked about and sometimes litigated over.  But what I think is more often the case (and talked about less) is the boss who simply hasn’t learned a very simple process and made it a habit.  What’s missing is in fact a key leadership tool that is easy to learn, simple to do, and cheap to implement.  What’s missing is acknowledgement. 

The next time your flight is on time or even close to being so, think about the astounding number of things that had to have gone right in order for that to happen; the number of people who in fact did their jobs and did them well. 

At times in my career when I have had direct reports, it has been my pleasure to acknowledge people for a job well done.  I made it a point to be on the lookout not just for what was going off course, but also for what was being done well.  Acknowledgement is a great way of reinforcing the behavior that you want. 

As an entrepreneur, even if you are a one-person organization, you can benefit from stepping up your acknowledgement of others.  Whether it’s the delivery driver, the printer repair person, your virtual assistant, or even a client or customer, people respond to acknowledgement.  Patrick Lencioni, in his book “The 3 Signs of a Miserable Job,” describes the critical nature of acknowledgment when he writes that anonymity and irrelevance are 2 of the 3 conditions that can have members of a team or organization feel disconnected and dissatisfied from their work.  

Acknowledgement helps reduce both anonymity and irrelevance because you are explicitly letting the person know that you appreciate something specific that they recently did—that it actually mattered to someone.  It also lets people know that you are paying attention, and I believe it builds loyalty and reduces turnover.  Whom would you rather work for or with–someone who notices when you do something well and says so, or someone who either only criticizes, or actually says very little at all?

Let’s take a look at the steps of acknowledgement :

  1. Get in the habit of noticing when things go well.  Not only does this set you up for a nice bit of acknowledging, but it also tends to keep you in a better mood
  2. Look them in the eye if you are in person, don’t rush, and be specific.
  3. If you can do the acknowledging publicly—and it’s appropriate—do so.

Try including acknowledgement as part of your leadership routine.  Chances are, you will increasingly become the business partner and leader that people prefer to be around.  Your business will be better off, and so will you! 

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