Appreciate

 

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Showing appreciation for others is a big deal. Whether it is a pat on the back, a high-five, or an award, valuing the work that others do is important for an organization to flourish. These tokens of appreciation go a long way in building relationships, rapport, trust, loyalty and investing in the emotional bank accounts of your team. Many people have the misconception that appreciation is linked to finances. It can be, but demonstrating appreciation goes further than a buck or two.

Appreciation, and honoring, people doesn’t just go from the bottom position of an organization to the top. It has be invasive of the culture in which you are a part of. How you appreciate the low-rung on the ladder speaks volumes to those looking to be a part of what your organization is doing. Here are few things to think about in showing appreciation to those who are getting their hands dirty with you to improve the lives of youth.

Make it personal

Finding out what your youth workers love to do in their off time is a great way to show appreciation. Maybe it is letting them leave an extra hour or two from work, or getting them a movie ticket, or putting the playoffs, or the big match, on  in the meeting room. When working with volunteers, I often ask them what their love language is so that I can best show appreciation. Some of the things I have done is babysat the kids of the leaders so they could do a date night with their spouse, we’ve done giant dog piles, talked them up in a big meeting and or simply wrote them a thank you. Look for ways to honor the people that are working alongside you in a way that makes it personal to them.

Make it fun

Fun is a core value that can change the atmosphere of your organization. Making the way you appreciate people fun is part that. Rent out giant soccer, get lunch catered, buy a dozen donuts, or have a wacky clothes day. Do a big awards ceremony for your staff and volunteers (watch the Office episode about the Dundies for inspiration). When fun is involved in how you appreciate youth workers, it creates excited, generates momentum and establishes culture.

Make it part of the culture

When you begin to show value to the people that are part of your team it becomes a catalyst for great things to happen. People get more excited for the work they do, they begin to form bonds between one another and are willing to go that extra mile. When you lead by appreciating others, that same attitude spreads to others  and builds momentum for a great environment to be a part of.  Make appreciation a part of the culture by doing it routinely and publicly.  Before you dive into staff meetings, take a moment to recognize people and for others to do the same. Throw a party!

Do the people on your team feel valued and cared for? How do you know? What can you do today to help show them that you appreciate all the they do to impact the lives of youth?

Lenses

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The way we think about youth today matters. People are inclined to either view youth as an asset or as a liability.

This thinking can be considered to be either from the perspective of strengths or deficits. This small difference can change how we interact, serve and work with youth. It can be a challenging concept but think about the past week, how have you seen the youth you work with? 

Seeing youth as assets, and creating environments and conversations based on the strengths of the students allows youth to find a greater joy, peace and sense of self then just looking at their deficits and the things that are not working for them. Even the things that youth lack become an opportunity for better relationships, growth and learning than simply a problem.

If we ask people to examine our own lives they are sure to find deficits, things that are missing, ways that we have failed, and our less honorable moments.  A different, strength-based, approach creates a sense of personal accomplishment, looks at the relationships of youth and allows youth to develop in a way that helps them build grit in order to overcome the challenges of life. This distinction is the lens in which we choose to see the world.

When you choose to interact with youth, and even their families, through the lens of their strengths it changes the attitudes and perspectives of those involved. There is now hope where things once looked bleak. There is new life, because someone has decided to look for the strengths where others missed the opportunity. Youth are able to engage in the world around them in a positive manner, they can see what is going well for them, they feel competent to accomplish tasks and meet expectations, and allows the relationship between adult and youth to be a positive one.

There are three basic ideas when we shift perspective to the strengths of youth:

  1. All youth have strengths
  2. All youth can be motivated by a caring adult
  3. Just because something is not a strength, does not mean it is a deficit, it is an opportunity

Here are some great questions to start asking youth in order to look through the lens of their strengths:

  1. What is working well?
  2. If you said one good thing about yourself, what would it be?
  3. What do you like most about your friends? Why?
  4. How do you think your friends would describe you?
  5. Who is someone you look up to? Why do you like them?
  6. What do you do to blow off steam?
  7. What is life like when you are most at peace?
  8. What gives you energy?
  9. How have you overcome the challenges in life?
  10. What is one thing you can do that would help improve _______ in your life?

Youth are more capable then we realize. However, during life it takes caring adults to help show them their strengths, not just berate them on failures. The conversations you get to have with youth as you walk through life with them helps to reinforce that they belong somewhere, that they are significant, that they have something to offer the world, and they are worthy of love.