ATD Blog

Grateful Leaders Practice Consciousness


In my first blog post, I introduced the 5 Cs of acknowledgment practiced by grateful leaders. The first C—consciousness—may well be the most important. Consciousness in simple form is the awareness of something within oneself. What I am promoting as a critical leadership competency is the awareness of the vast array of undelivered communications that can change (or even save) lives, engage people by connecting them profoundly to their work and lightening their load, and positively affect performance. Here is a true story of one such difference that a previously undelivered communication made to both the giver and the recipient.

Another real-life story had a profound impact on me. While training 100 managers in a large Finnish company, I posed the question: “When was the last time you were acknowledged for your work—within the last week, month, year, or not at all?” Few people ever raise a hand for the “not at all” category.

Imagine my surprise when even one hand raised in response to the last option. But I was more surprised by the audience’s reaction. The participants jumped out of their seats to approach the person who raised her hand, in shock and amazement at her confession. I heard comments like, “What do you mean you have never been acknowledged—I think you’re the best person we ever had in that role,” and, “Can you possibly say that no one here ever told you how incredible you are?” The auditorium was buzzing. The woman burst into tears and said that if people had only shared all of this wonderful feedback before, she would not be leaving her current office (she had just requested and received a transfer to a more distant company location).

How could something like this have happened, you might ask, when this woman obviously was held in such high esteem by her colleagues? I can assure you that similar instances happen all of the time, in every industry, on a variety of teams and departments, and even within our families. People think wonderful things about others but don’t bother to move such acknowledgments from their brains to their mouths.


And why don’t they? I have heard every excuse in the book: I’m too busy to stop and tell him, he’s too busy to listen, I don’t want to interrupt the work she is doing, I don’t know the right words to use, she might think I am being phony and trying to manipulate her, he will then ask me to give him a raise, and so forth. But if you are reading this blog series on the 5 Cs, there is at least some intention on your part to become more generous and sincere with your acknowledgments, to help your employees feel more valued and appreciated, and to reap the rewards.


So the first step is to take note of the acknowledgments that float through your brain—to become conscious of them. I recommend carrying a notebook with you or capturing these thoughts on your mobile device as each one enters your mind. This ongoing act is imperative if you want to create a culture of appreciation in your organization that will enhance loyalty and engagement. As you grow conscious of each acknowledgment, you will then progress to the second of the five Cs—choice. More on choice next week!

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