The Power of Acknowledgment

How to Change Another Person’s Life With Just Your Words

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I never intended to go to college after high school.

Unless you have read my book, Jungle: A Journey to Peace, Purpose, and Freedom, you may not know that. I had a great job working in a factory. I made as much money as a fully trained and certified high school teacher. I enjoyed my work, and I had no desire to do anything else.

My boss would not stand for it.

He could see my potential, and he insisted—insisted!—that I research degree programs.

“I won’t take no for an answer,” he said. “You clearly have a business mind. I have seen the systems and methods you have created that make the factory work better, and I don’t want your natural talent to go to waste.”

He offered to pay two-thirds of my tuition. I told him—in no uncertain terms—that I was not interested in attending school! (Can you believe I said that?!)

“I want you to attend one semester and then report back,” he replied. Then he stared at me until—fearing a little bit for my job—I agreed.

Thank goodness Mr. Walton saw in me what I did not see in myself. In that first semester, my disdain for higher education dissolved, and I now have an undergraduate degree and two master’s degrees. Mr. Walton’s acknowledgment of my potential changed my life.

The Power of Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment is a basic human need. We all want to feel valued, that we make a difference, and that what we do matters.

Sure, we may be quick to criticize. But so many of us are shy to share what awesome things we see in another. Why? What else can you offer someone for no cost and minimal effort that can make such a difference in their life, especially at work?

As a leader, when you convey heartfelt and authentic appreciation, admiration, and insights to those you lead—when you share with another something special you see in them—you can expect to see specific and measurable results.

Employee commitment to your organization will increase. They will contribute more enthusiastically to helping the organization achieve the mission. Productivity will improve, and revenues will grow. Really.

Practice Seeing the Best in Another

Is it hard for you to express sharing with another the best you see in them? First, I want you to understand the power in acknowledgment by asking yourself these questions:

  • When has someone seen you bigger than you see yourself? How did it make you feel?
  • When have you seen someone bigger than they see themselves? What did you do to share your insight with them?

Can you see the difference you can make by taking on the challenge of affirming another person?

Consider the practice a colleague of mine took on to increase his comfort with acknowledgment and appreciation. Every morning, when he gets dressed, he puts three coins in his left pocket. When he sees someone as bigger than they see themselves, he offers an appreciation or acknowledgment and moves a coin to the other pocket. By the end of the day, he wants to have all three coins in the right pocket. If he is undressing at the end of the day and he still has a coin in the left pocket, he honors his commitment to himself. He gets on his computer and sends an email to a colleague or friend that expresses what he sees in them that they may not see in themselves.

And when I call it a “practice,” I use that word intentionally. Expressing acknowledgment and appreciation does not come naturally for my colleague. He had to do it over and over until it became almost second nature.

We can all think back on at least one person who saw us bigger than we saw ourselves. Do you remember the difference it made in how you saw yourself? When we see people at their best and share it with them, I assure you, they find their fear, uncertainty, self-judgment, and doubt disappear.

Who wouldn’t want that for another?



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