In the early years of my teaching, I struggled to create consistent success. It felt hit or miss no matter what I did. One particular afternoon rehearsal, my supervisor, Larry Simons, stopped in to observe my class. The next day, I received an email with the subject line ‘We need to talk’ which rates very high on the ominous scale that can cause sleeplessness, worry, and indigestion…instantly. 

Arriving at his office at the pre-arranged time, Larry ushered me to a chair and started the conversation. “I know you’re working really hard, and I see that you’re struggling. How can I support you?” Those words caused the worry and indigestion to disappear almost …instantly. Definitely not what I expected to hear. Larry listened to me, made several notes, and then we talked about some strategies to try over the next several months. We scheduled several follow-up sessions and then our conversation ended. 

I diligently applied the strategies that we had talked about. Were they working? I didn’t really know until I went to my mailbox the day after what felt like a very successful performance and pulled out a long, plain white envelope with just my name on it. I started to read the enclosed letter from my boss, and when I finished you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. 

It said, ‘John, I want to congratulate you on a very fine performance last night. Your hard work has really paid off for you and your students. The band played so musically, with precision, and maturity of sound. I could tell by watching them and listening to them, that your students felt connected to you and the music. Delightful! Congratulations.’

His words went way beyond saying “Good job”, or “Thank you for an enjoyable concert.” He acknowledged the hard work my students and I had put in over many months. He expressed his appreciation for our attention to detail, and how the music made him feel. And, he didn’t have to say any of that, but the fact that he did set me on a trajectory of success for the rest of my teaching career. Let me say that again. His encouragement, acknowledgment, and appreciation set me on a trajectory of success for the rest of my teaching career.

Remember, saying thank you is just the first step. Be willing to go deeper into acknowledgment and appreciation will pay dividends in ways you didn’t expect. Inspiring people to work to their highest potential, and motivating them to stay with your organization are just a few at the top of the list.

In what ways, are you expressing your acknowledgment and appreciation for members of your organization? How are you being intentional about recognizing the contributions your members are making to your organization everyday?

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