Appreciating the Different Cookies in Your Cookie Jar

When I say ‘cookies in your cookie jar,’ I’m not literally talking about chocolate chip cookies, oreos, oatmeal raisin, or even peanut butter. But figuratively, I am. Each of these ‘flavors’ represent a different and unique player on your team. How they carry themselves, their work ethic, how they interact with other people. They have their own way of going about things. Now I say all the time that my kids teach me my greatest life lessons, and here we are at another one. When I think about this saying, I think of my kids. My youngest is always looking for the humor in things and carries himself through life lightheartedly, keeping focus on his dream but doesn’t let anyone throw him off his mark. He teaches me that lightheartedness in return. My other kiddos are more of a mixture of outwardly driven, super competitive, a few are even more quiet and inward. But each of them does their own thing without talking about it and they each teach me something a little bit different every day. When you have a team of people who shine with their own uniqueness day in and day out, this is something that should be valued.

What Motivates Your People?

When you think about performance and what sets certain team members apart, think about what really motivates them. What sets them on fire? How can you bring and maintain the energy they need into the workplace? Every individual on your team brings their own special qualities to the table. They’re all there for a purpose and do their best each day to make their cog in the machine run as smoothly as possible. It takes a lot of time to put together these pieces. So when you find them, appreciate their gifts and encourage each person to expand on them as a part of the bigger mission.

That way together, you can all grow and build towards something better and exciting. Treat them as individuals, and not as a number. When you personalize and individualize your leadership approach to each member of your team and allow your actions to speak to the values you hold, they’ll feel more connected to you. The more connection they have, the more trust you build. The more trust you build, the more they’ll become their whole selves. This helps resonate with them in a way that they truly feel a part of the team as well as the bigger picture and your organization’s overall mission.

Give Appreciation & Recognition (Often!)

Being appreciative of who you lead can fill you up just as much as the recognition you can provide for them. Caring leaders consistently show appreciation and gratitude toward those they lead. They do it because it’s the right thing to do! So recognize, recognize, recognize - too. It’s one of the simple aspects of leadership that often gets overlooked. Why? Because it seems like a simple gesture, but it goes such a long way. Treating everyone with the same ‘cookie cutter’ approach isn’t going to make them feel special and you’re going to end up with only one kind of cookie in your jar. And that’s not going to satisfy everyone.

Practice providing consistent positive feedback and words of encouragement as often as you can. Personalize that to each individual to emphasize their strengths. It's a good reminder that showing value and appreciation for another person does wonders for our mental health (both as the giver and receiver of that joy). Take time to jot a quick note to express gratitude and say thanks for something specific. Start a meeting with someone sharing what he or she is grateful for that day. Gather “Wednesday Wins” each week to celebrate accomplishments. A culture of gratitude and appreciation promotes feelings of self-worth.

Reflection

As an empathetic person, I deeply value the contributions of everyone, whether directly or indirectly, on my team. Not all of your people are in the same place mentally and emotionally. Be careful not to make assumptions that everyone on your team is dealing with stressors and carrying through their life in the same way as you. Show grace, understanding, and appreciation with every touch point. They will reflect that in their work, and it will shine right back at you.

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