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Book Review: Authors portray 5 forms of appreciation, and how they don’t all fit everyone

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  • Written by  Charlie Moon
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
The 5 Languages of Appreciation In The Workplace: Empowering Organizations By Encouraging People, by Gary Chapman and Paul White, Northfield Publishing, 264 pp. The 5 Languages of Appreciation In The Workplace: Empowering Organizations By Encouraging People, by Gary Chapman and Paul White, Northfield Publishing, 264 pp.

• “Ellen consistently leads her department in sales and with the highest marks in customer service. At the department’s quarterly meetings, she is regularly called forward to receive an award. For Ellen, this is like torture.”

• “Jim loves praise—not inappropriately or excessively so, but what others think of him is clearly important … Certainly, he likes financial success, but if he were not verbally affirmed, he might soon be looking for another company.”
• Jason, the office manager in a large medical clinic: “I know Dr. Schultz is busy—wildly busy. But she always makes the time to meet with me virtually every week. If she didn’t, I know I would feel out of the loop and that the things I do really don’t matter to her.”

Do you have an Ellen, a Jim, a Jason working in your bank? Perhaps they work for you?

This was a hard book to read.

Not because it is poorly written. It’s not.

Not because the subject doesn’t matter. It does.

It was hard to read because it covers a subject few bankers--indeed, few people--seem to understand and that many bankers could benefit from reading about. And most likely few bankers will think they have the time and energy to invest to read it. That would be a mistake, because the subject is showing appreciation for one’s fellow worker, one’s staff, one’s customers.

And if this wasn’t a time when that needs to be done well, when would the time be right?
Understanding the need for appreciation

All of us know what is happening in the banking business. Business down. Loans down. Margins down. Fee income down. Jobs down. Respect for bankers down. ROE down. ROA down. And we think employee morale is going to be up?

But there is a lifeline woven through this  book that could help us survive in a better state of mind. The only constant in the future of banking is people. Let’s take care of them. Applying the information in this book is free. No money will be spent and the returns will be better than your portfolio. Invest in your people.

Dr. Gary Chapman, one of the authors of this book, wrote another book that has sold 6 million copies in English, and have been translated into 40 languages. The title is The Five Love Languages. He was encouraged by people attending his workshops to write a book that would help in the workplace. Dr. Chapman responded after finding his co-author Dr. Paul White.

They worked together for three years, starting with a “Motivating by Appreciation” inventory. They found that all of us share one common thread--all of us appreciate being appreciated.

However, just as people are different, the duo found, what motivates them is different. The three short excerpts that I opened this review with give a flavor of the anecdotes they use.
Knowing the 5 languages of appreciation

The core of this book is the 5 languages, or facets, of appreciation, the ways that we show others that we value what they have done for us, our families, or our company. Much of the rest of the book involves applying one’s understanding of each, and notably includes a warning not to let one’s own preferences create a blind spot, such that you thoughtlessly reward others with what pleases you.

The authors describe the 5 languages this way:

1. Words of Affirmation: This is praise, privately to the person, or in front of a group. Sometimes the praise is in writing, and those who like this may even file the note or memo in an “encouragement file.” Honey for some, poison for others. But where it is taken well, the more specific the praise, the more seriously it is taken. There is resistance to very general “rah rah” talk.

Tone of voice is critical.
2. Quality Time: This translates to “undivided attention,” a form of appreciation where the other person is being given your entire focus for some period. This may sound like a no-brainer, but the authors present examples of how attempts at quality time can fall flat.

The executive who multitasks during these moments--scrolling through the Blackberry messages, looking out the window--is kidding himself that he is showing the “appreciated” party quality time. Eye contact is critical to giving quality time, the authors advise.

And so is not interrupting.
3. Acts of Service: Some employees are lone wolves, and some are perfectionists. Neither finds it a form of appreciation for a boss or coworker to help out with their work, or to assign someone to help. But some people find this an absolutely golden form of appreciation.

But even then, the effort can misfire. For example, help that is clearly being given begrudgingly isn’t appreciation at all.
4. Tangible Gifts: Some people resist receiving gifts as a form of business. Some love it. Some, it depends what the gift is. The authors provide an example of an employee who likes occasionally receiving sports tickets from the company owners. First, he likes being able to take his son or his buddies to a major league game. Second, he knows that the owners don’t generally share these tickets, so that makes getting them a real feather in his cap.

The authors warn that giving gifts requires knowing your recipient:

“Giving the right gift to a person who appreciates tangible rewards can send a powerful message of thanks, appreciation, and encouragement. Conversely, giving a gift to someone who doesn’t really appreciate gifts has little impact; the wrong gift can actually create an offense.”

While the tickets to the ball game may score with the some employees, many men might not appreciate two tickets to the ballet, the authors point out.
5. Physical Touch: This is a somewhat loaded area, with issues of sexual harassment always looming, the authors acknowledge. There can be an appropriate role in an office for this form of appreciation, and the chapter on this factor looks at all sides of the question.

Personal background has to be controlled. The supervisor who comes from a “touchy- feely” family has to resist the urge to slap an employee on the back who recoils at having their personal space invaded.
Applying the 5 languages to banking

What this book reveals helps us find how we like to be appreciated as well as helping those who report to us figure out how they like to be appreciated.

Personally I enjoy connecting people to other people that are in my network. I work to ensure both parties benefit. A new non-profit director that moved to our market from out of state has benefitted from my ability to connect people. Recently she gave me specific, meaningful feedback that reinforced my behavior. I was appreciated, and I was told that I was appreciated.

Who do you think will benefit from my “hobby” going forward? The person who showed appreciation and took the time to tell me that my efforts are appreciated. It’s simple, people appreciate being appreciated.
Moving forward with appreciation

Will Rogers, the great statesman from Oklahoma, said something that truly fits understanding and misunderstanding of appreciation: “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

In the past, bankers have been trained to understand numbers, and perhaps not trained to understand people. Reading this book and applying the concepts available will allow us to balance both sides of the numbers and people balance. And that will get us back to a loyal and committed workforce through appreciation.

The book includes an “Appreciation Toolkit” which is chock-full of resources that are worth the investment price of the book. It includes a guide to picking up on clues that colleagues don’t feel appreciated; a guide to recognizing volunteers; and advice on how to give a gift without buying a “thing.”

“Who needs another coffee mug?” is part of the latter--and a good question to end on.
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