By Kent Mulkey

Effective leaders have a significant impact on not only the team members they lead but also their company by how they communicate. Employees who work under great leaders tend to be happier, more productive, and more connected to their organization. It’s simple math, which is what I am best at – feeling appreciated + being part of a great team = exceptional performance.

I pride myself on the study and use of language to communicate clearly and powerfully. But there was one word (among thousands) that I completely missed – “appreciate.” Recently I was taught by example from a few folks the difference between “I appreciate the work you are doing,” and “I appreciate YOU.”

I have been fortunate to hear “I appreciate the work you are doing” often over the course of my life. But it is a whole other experience to hear a leader say, “I appreciate YOU.”

Hearing these words made me uncomfortable but initially, I wasn’t sure why. Then it dawned on me; it was all about emotional closeness. It was directed at me! I was raised in a performance-oriented environment and early work culture, so to be appreciated just for being me was new. Wow!

I had two amazing CEO/owners who showed me grace (acceptance despite performance) in a way that I had not before experienced at work. One called me a year after opening a community when I was utterly exhausted and instructed me to take a week off without counting it against PTO, go somewhere to relax and them tell him about it when I got home. He appreciated me. The performance part would be there when I got back.

The other was when I nose-dived into a severe iron-deficiency condition and ended up in the hospital receiving IV iron infusions. The owner and CEO of the company called me straight away. He told me to take all the time I needed to get well, to rest and to only come back to work when I felt better. He appreciated me.

Building an authentic, personal connection with your teammates by continuing to show them you care more about them as people and important to the team is vital to then developing a strong culture of exceptional performance.

Try it. Tell someone today that you appreciate them and not just for what they do.