As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. - John Fitzgerald Kennedy
It was a Monday afternoon. I was busy coordinating with the networking and hardware support team, for some of the operational issues that we were facing with our systems. I and my team were developing a web based application for one of our healthcare clients and it was one of my busiest days in the company. Suddenly, Mahesh pinged me on our global chat system, from one of our development centers. He said "Hi, Sabyasachi, what’s up? Hope you are enjoying your new assignment. I just thought of informing you that Harry has publicly acknowledged the contributions of your entire team and a certificate of appreciation have been sent out to everyone. We have sent your certificate to your development center, since you have been assigned to your new project in a different city. Enjoy the day!!! “
As a project manager, Mahesh was managing quite a few projects in the testing services practice. Harry was the Vice President of our testing services practice and was responsible for managing the operations of the practice in all the development centers across the country. The testing services practice had a business need for developing a scenario repository portal which would help the clients in knowing more about the vertical, its projects, and all the testing scenarios. It would also be quite helpful for the senior management in starting a new business engagement.
I and my team had successfully implemented the project well within the schedule and budget. Mahesh had asked me to help him on this project, besides some of the other projects that I was already managing, as he was keen to implement a vital project such as this, within the planned schedule of 4 months. Although it was an internal project for our organization, I thought of volunteering for this project as this would give me another opportunity to know more about our testing services practice. The most challenging part of this project was that most of the team members were working from different development centers located in different cities across the country; and managing teams virtually was not an easy task. However, I was fortunate enough to have a team who were skilled on .NET technologies and were quite dedicated towards the project.
Once while having a chat with Mahesh, I asked him "Mahesh, what do you think about the team's performance on this project, till now?” Mahesh replied, "The portal is nearing completion and most of the stakeholders are quite happy about what they are seeing on this portal. But, Sabyasachi, we may not be able to acknowledge the entire team's efforts. However, we would definitely like to thank you for your help, especially since this project is an internal project and you have helped us despite managing other projects." Now, this was not something that I really expected from Mahesh. Even though, I didn't like what Mahesh said, I thought of discussing this topic with him after a few days and tactfully avoided any conflicts with him at that moment.
However, this was an issue which left me thinking for a long time after I reached home. I knew how dedicatedly the team members had worked on this project. Each part of the project including the system design, database design, coding, testing , documentation, VPN connectivity issue etc., were carefully addressed by the team . The least that we could do for them was to appreciate them for their efforts and say "Thank You!”. Although, it was an internal project, the project would add a lot of value to the business in the testing services practice. Later, that evening, I thought of doing something about the issue. I created a document containing a list of all the team members, their roles and their contributions and presented it to Mahesh after a few days. This helped Mahesh in understanding the level of efforts that each one of them had put in for this project.
Later, when Harry visited the development center, Mahesh arranged for a demo of the entire application and briefed him about functionality and the value that it would bring to the testing practice and the business. He also updated Harry on the efforts that each team member had put in for this project. Later, Harry had publicly acknowledged the efforts of each one of the team members including those who were working from different cities and asked Mahesh to send out a certificate of appreciation to every team member.
Why appreciation matters?
One of the most important workplace emotions is the feeling that we truly matter; we contribute a unique value to our projects and our organizations; and we are recognized for our contributions. According to research, employees feel motivated to work if they know that their supervisors or managers are genuinely interested in their well-being. Feeling genuinely appreciated motivates people, makes them feel safe and helps them in feeling energized. All these factors frees up our minds to do our best work.
Appreciation from Harry was quite a morale booster for my team, especially since they were not accustomed to being appreciated by their supervisors to do their jobs. Later, I learnt from some of my team members that they were all allocated to different projects, in entirely different domains. Some of them were not even working on the same technology as that of the project that they had worked upon in the testing services practice. And yet, they were all performing well in their respective projects. One of the team members was also promoted by his supervisors during the annual appraisal.
Promoting a culture of appreciation
As project managers, we need to understand that our jobs depend on our teams. Therefore we should promote a feeling of trust, collaboration, and appreciation whenever we can, in our workplace. Performance, loyalty, engagement, confidence, motivation, self-worth are all functions of acknowledgment rather than compensation. Especially during these challenging economic times, when every individual is working hard, we should do our best to create a culture of appreciation in our workplace to enable people to know their value and their worth.
Harry's verbal and written appreciation wasn't just motivation for my team alone but also motivated other teams in the testing services practice. I later learnt from one of my colleagues in the testing services practice that teams were quite excited to see a brand new portal in the practice. The overall performance of various teams in the Testing services practice had also improved drastically after they realized that it really pays to perform at their best, for their projects.
While working with other teams in the testing services practice, I also found that thanking them for their help on various issues, evoked a positive response from them. Each time, I and my team members, received help from the other teams in the practice, we thanked them; either while interacting with them on internal chat systems, or during coffee breaks. Teams really liked it, when we thanked them and informed them about the difference they had made to our projects by helping us on a particular issue.
Research indicates that the single highest driver for engagement by employees is the feeling that supervisors are genuinely interested in their well-being. Genuine appreciation motivates people to give their best, even during challenging times. Project managers should also take efforts in creating a culture of appreciation in their workplaces to enable their team members to know their value and their worth.Image Courtesy: president.mit.edu