The Power of Acknowledgement

By amandaalexander | Business

I’ve been tuned in to the enormous power of acknowledgment ever since I left university and started work. Like most people, my general experience of acknowledgement has been from lack of it rather than abundance.

During my career as a Project Manager, I worked within a high pressure company culture where people were generally NOT routinely acknowledged for their work: it seemed that the only time someone noticed the work people did was when something went WRONG on a project. I recall submitting reports and the focus was always on the red and amber flags – very little time was spent acknowledging people’s hard work or positive results.

When I trained as a Coach, I learned about the importance of getting our needs met. In a personal development context, this means the needs above the basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Here’s a very quick and dirty introduction to why getting your personal needs met is so important: When human beings don’t identify their own personal needs and put processes in place to get them met, these needs tend to drive our behaviour. In turn, this propagates an unhealthy vicious cycle where we sub-consciously try to get our needs met. This ultimately holds us back from achieving our biggest dreams and goals.

A good analogy might be this: Imagine you want to get from A to B in a car. You’re determined to get to your destination and you keep putting your foot down on the accelerator. But you’re not getting anywhere because you’re also pressing the brake pedal at the same time. Getting your needs met is like taking your foot off the brake pedal so that the accelerator pedal can do it’s job and you can drive to your desired destination.

One of the core needs that almost EVERY person I’ve ever coached is the need for acknowledgement.

Back in 2006, I felt so strongly about the power of acknowledgement, that I submitted a proposal to a major high street bank for a workshop on acknowledging skills for managers. I wrote this proposal in response to so many of my clients expressing their unmet need for being acknowledged at work.

Acknowledgement in this context is about recognising something that someone has done; it’s the action of showing that we have noticed someone or something. And the power of acknowledgement in the workplace is the power to help people to flourish, to enhance their performance, to grow their confidence and create a virtuous circle of high performing, happy and fulfilled employees.

Let’s go back to my car journey analogy: If a company or organisation is like the car, then the unmet need for acknowledgement is the brake on the car stopping it from reaching its desired destination. When you build genuine acknowledgement into your company culture, not only are you taking your foot off the brake, you’re filling the car with turbo fuel to enhance the acceleration!

Professional athletes know that ongoing acknowledgement and celebration as well as cheers from their fans and encouragement from their team mates improves their performance. The power of acknowledgement is as useful to high performance in the office and raising confident kids as much as it is on the playing field.

It is an unfortunate fact that most company cultures constantly put the focus on what’s not working, on what needs to be fixed and what still needs to be completed. Whilst it’s important to fix and finish, I believe that taking the time to recognise and acknowledge people for the work they have done would act as a preventive measure and reduce the number of problems that get all of the focus.

Acknowledging is a powerful catalyst for action, but when it is absent, it leads to inaction, resentment and demotivation. Talented women and men who don’t feel valued vote with their feet. I know this because, during my years as a professional Coach, I’ve helped a fair few of them to walk elsewhere.

The power of acknowledgement is one of the most underrated and most important elements of leadership and of unleashing human potential. Whether I am coaching personal clients or corporate clients or whether I’m just going about my day-to-day life, acknowledgment is something that’s always been at the forefront of my mind. My radar is almost always switched on to spot opportunities to acknowledge people, whether it’s one of my boys at home, one of my clients or a waiter in a restaurant. It can be anywhere – close family member, colleague or stranger.

Last weekend I was in my beloved Lake District and I felt moved to talk about the power of acknowledgement at the top of Orrest Head in Windermere! I shot a Facebook Live which I’ve uploaded to my blog.

Click here to watch the video – You’ll hear hear me tell the story of the train conductor who seemed to grow a few inches taller after I acknowledged him, or my own recent story about being on the receiving end of acknowledgement for my own performance at work. And even better, you’ll also get to take in some of the finest views in England whilst you’re watching! 🙂

Click here to watch my Vlog on “The Power of Acknowledgement”

 I’d love to hear from you below in the comments.

  • Do you feel acknowledged at work?
  • Do you look out for opportunities to acknowledge your team or colleagues?
  • Are you better at acknowledging your family than your colleagues? Or vice versa?
  • And how about strangers? Do you go out of your way to acknowledge people you notice doing a great job, even if you feel a bit awkward doing so?

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