Using Appreciations, Personalized Thank-You’s

©2003 Johanna Rothman,

The project retrospective was proceeding nicely. We’d had lunch, and we entered the mid-afternoon low-energy lull. I decided it was time to change gears for a few minutes, to move the energy back up a couple of notches, so I introduced appreciations.

Appreciations are a special form of thank you. They take the form of:

I appreciate you [the person’s name] for [a specific action].

A second optional part that I suggested the participants include is:

[What that action meant to you].

If you’re in the same room, you can walk up to the person, look them in the eye, and express the appreciation. For some people, that seems too emotional, not a work statement, so I make that part optional. But, if you want people to continue repeating beneficial behaviors, include the what-the-action-meant-to-you part.

This project team had no trouble appreciating their colleagues. Here are some of their paraphrased appreciations:

“Hermione, I appreciate you for insisting that we estimate the project assuming we only had 4 work days each week. I had an estimate that was amazingly close to the actual schedule. That’s never happened to me before.”

“I appreciate you Ron, for thinking about the project and testing intelligently. I’ve worked with testers who didn’t know about our projects, and not had the benefits I wanted from the testing. You found things I didn’t know I’d put into the code.”

“Harry, I appreciate you for playing basketball with me when I couldn’t think about that part of the design anymore. You helped prevent me from designing garbage.”

“I appreciate you Dumbledore, for reviewing my first draft architecture write-up so quickly. Because you reviewed it quickly, I was able to reorganize it, and our customers really like the way the product is organized now.”

Notice how appreciations are different from typical corporate thank you’s. Here’s a typical corporate thank you. For best effect, read this with a deep blustery voice, “On behalf of the senior management team, we thank the Foosis project for their time and effort. Great job everyone!”

Nothing personal about that thank you. What did the Foosis team do? Is the company going to use it? Did it make a difference?

When you appreciate someone, you’re thanking a specific person for a specific action, and explaining how that action was personally valuable to you.

Not bad for one or two sentences, eh?

(I appreciate you J.K.R., for creating such wonderful characters that engage and encourage reading by all ages.)

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