25. Februar 2016

Appreciation is HARD

Katrin Sauer

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been conducting a secret experiment (ok, not so secret anymore 🙂 ) – I tried to write at least one Kudo Card every day for one of my colleagues. Kudo Cards are a lightweight and easy way to express appreciation, a technique introduced by Jurgen Appelo.

Kudo Cards – An appreciation-tool

Using Kudo Cards is nothing new at Leanovate. Our monthly “Leanovate day” includes the company-wide ritual of sharing Kudos. After an intense day of discussions and decisions, everyone can (and usually does) fill out anonymous Kudo Cards, then we read them out loud. Usually, there are quite a few things people are grateful for: the nice breakfast, people taking over the role of moderator for different discussions, interesting presentations, etc.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make writing Kudo Cards a daily ritual, just for me. I didn't tell anyone. I basically wanted to see what would happen. I would sneak the cards I had written in with the others at the next Leanovate day.
Of course, I thought being grateful for my colleagues every day would be easy-peasy. Right! Right? After all, I share an office with these great, kind, attentive, talented and passionate people. I should be coming up with tons of things I can be grateful for...
But no. It turns out it is really, really HARD! Every evening before leaving work, I sit at my desk, going back through the day, searching, thinking, pondering… .

Taking things for granted

Why is that — why is it so hard to appreciate your colleagues? I have identified two main reasons that make it hard for me:

  1. A lot of things my colleagues do, I take for granted.

Many, many little things just slip by, creating positive white noise. Like explaining something a second time because I spaced out for a moment. Or going to another room for a phone call, so I and the others won’t be disturbed. Or coming up with a smart solution for a software problem. Or taking the time to show me a new tool. Or, or, or… .
Yes, of course, that’s what we do. Because it is our job. Or because we are genuinely nice people and care about others. Still, these little things take effort. And empathy. Unfortunately, both are depletable resources.
I still often struggle to come up with something, but writing a card — and taking the time to think about the nice things happening — has made me more aware. And it has also made me appreciate my team more than I did before.

  1. A lot of things my colleagues do, THEY take for granted.

When my colleagues read the Kudo Cards I wrote, they are often surprised, usually reacting with “Ah, but this goes without saying. It's my job!”
But I know how good it feels to be recognized. And they do, too. Interestingly, it seems to be part of our culture to only focus on the big things and to ignore the little things, the soft factors. Even for ourselves. But that can have negative effects.
The January/February issue of the Harvard Business Review presented a study about collaboration and collaborative overload. One of their insights was that collaborative behavior is often the decisive factor in successful projects and positive team work, but usually it goes unrecognized. This very often results in overwork and frustration. One conclusion of the study is a recommendation to explicitly make recognizing collaboration part of the review and benefit process. Appreciating the necessary skills and behaviors in this way could help improve morale and reduce burnout.

#Kudos - How one little note can boost motivation. A personal experiment.

My takeaway here: I will write my colleagues Kudos cards — many of them. And they will have to get used to it. I’m giving you a compliment — DEAL WITH IT 🙂

If it makes you happy...

So, having done this experiment now, I have learned that appreciating others is hard, but it is worth to make them happier.
And I also discovered something really nice: Expressing gratitude makes me happier! By taking the time to think about positive experiences, I feel better. I feel accepted, appreciated, supported, comfortable and safe. And these are great feelings to end a workday with.

Links and articles:
Kudo Cards and how to use them
Harvard Business Review on "The Limits of Empathy"
Harvard Business Review on "Collaborative Overload"


Katrin Sauer
Agile | Product | Coaching

One comment on “Appreciation is HARD”

  1. Great article. Focus on the tiny almost unseen things sounds great. I'll try it on my own. Starting right now - thank you for your experiment and the thoughts you share with us 🙂

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