Chapter 10

Recognition and Appreciation

Many of us think that recognition and appreciation are the same things, but they are not.

And the distinction isn’t just one of semantics. It truly matters – especially to those of us in leadership and management positions.

I once watched Mike Robbins’ TED Talk on the topic, which you should definitely go ahead and watch right now. Here’s my take on how he defines recognition and appreciation.


Recognition is positive feedback based on performance or results. In other words, when you produce a positive outcome, you get recognised. But recognition is time-sensitive and finite, i.e., there is only so much recognition that can be given before it becomes meaningless or insincere.


Appreciation is about appreciating people for who they are, not just what they do. For example, a study at UC Berkeley showed that people were 43% more effective and productive when they felt their manager valued and cared for them. This contrasted with being just 23% more productive when they felt recognised for their work.

One of the most effective ways to show people we appreciate them is by sending handwritten notes to those we lead. An activity that takes just a couple of minutes and costs no more than a few pennies or cents.

I talked about this practice with an Executive Team this month, which led a team of 9,000 people. Two team members mentioned that they still had a handwritten note from a former boss in their desk drawer.

When they told the story, those people came alive.

Their eyes lit up.

Their energy changed.

At that moment, it was clear to me that those two people would have done anything for that leader.

9,200 Thank Yous a Year!

Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of Belfor Holdings Inc, writes 9,200 cards to his team each year. These include thank you cards, anniversary cards, birthday cards, and even cards to his employees’ children when they are sick.

Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, wrote 30,000 cards in his ten-year tenure. By my maths, that’s around 58 cards per week.

I’m not suggesting you need to send that many thank-you cards. But imagine the impact if you did.

And what if you started by sending one in the next 24 hours?

I’ve got more insights and tips on this tactic in the video, along with a final challenge for you to complete!


Further actions

Listen to this Podcast

Leadership skills and building resilience with Colonel Caroline Woodbridge-Lewin - Episode 43

Caroline was commissioned into the Royal Signals in 1995 and has completed numerous roles serving in the United Kingdom, USA, Cyprus, Germany, Bosnia and Iraq. 

There are so many pearls of wisdom in this episode. A few personal highlights for me are Caroline’s thoughts around building resilience – and not being overly critical of ourselves, the need to lead management activity and being very intentional about where she positions herself as a leader… and why.

Colonel Caroline Woodbridge-Lewin, MBE | Leadership skills and building resilience

Recommended Read

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

“The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a timeless classic that has garnered both praise and criticism since its initial publication in 1982. Despite being short and easily digestible, the book has sold over 7 million copies and has been translated into more than 25 languages.

This parable-style book follows a young man’s journey as he seeks to understand effective management. Through encounters with different types of managers, he learns valuable lessons that blend the importance of results with a focus on people.

The book encapsulates key principles, such as the importance of empowering individuals to reach their full potential and the significance of providing timely feedback. It emphasises the idea that people who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to produce positive outcomes.

In a world where organisations often prioritise tangible assets over investing in their people, “The One Minute Manager” reminds us of the crucial role that leadership plays in fostering a productive and engaged workforce.

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