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CONTEST: My Best Excuse for NOT Acknowledging Someone who Truly Deserves it!

By Judith W. Umlas

During my recent webinar presentation for PMI SCC (Southern Caribbean Chapter), we spoke about Grateful Leadership and its foundation, The Power of Acknowledgment. The highly interactive session brought forth many great examples of the need and desire for acknowledgment. It has become clear to me in the 16 years since my first book on this subject, The Power of Acknowledgment, was published by IIL, though, that most people have barriers to expressing heartfelt, authentic acknowledgment. So I presented attendees with an opportunity to participate in a contest: “My Best Excuse for NOT Acknowledging Someone who Truly Deserves it…”

I’ve held this contest in the past, and gotten some great, creative excuses. And this contest also had some equally great excuses submitted. And let’s remember that we ALL have these excuses. That’s actually the (not so) hidden purpose of this contest: to show us how our minds work to deprive our recipient – and ourselves – of the joy, the aliveness, the energy of actually JUST DOING IT, even with our considerations!

So here are the winners (no, our contest “judges” (thank you Chapter President Janelle Kowlessar, Janet Laverie, IIL Sr. Client Services Manager and Anna Kivela, IIL Virtual Conference Events Coordinator, couldn’t help me come up with just one winner):

First Prize: Monique Sham Poo

“While working as a Project Manager within the customer Services Division – Retail Stores, I got to witness for the first time negative reinforcement from my Manager, the department head. I asked one day why there were no “ARISE and shine” cards awarded in the department.

The Manager explained that many years ago he was in charge of the south district, and that their departmental goal was to achieve reduction of faults and installations. The team exceeded the goal and received both verbal and written recognition in the company’s newsletter. The team felt they had reached their pivotal record and subsequently in the next 6 months, they took a relaxed attitude and the results for the next quarter diminished. The “Trini work culture” was denoted and the team reached no new goals and barely maintained the sustainability of past results.

The lesson that both the Manager and team learned was that sometimes public recognition undermines efficiency in departmental results. Thereafter, my Manager had developed an attitude to never give whole-hearted praise and recognition to the team. His remarks would be fair/objective, but never would full acknowledgment be given again. The Manager would only give feedback to his peers and his boss on his team’s performance to boost his department’s yearly objectives.

Being a young project manager professional at that time, I had to look within me to propel my success and measure my work internally, knowing that I would not be fully acknowledged and given praise. My only way of knowing I had succeeded was when I was referred to other company projects to help other divisions and departments meet their goals and objectives. My Manager’s referrals were my vote of confidence on my work to deliver same results for other teams. In summary, my past work experience has impacted my decision to not give wholehearted gratitude and meaningful “Thank You’s” to valuable project team members.

What this contest entry exemplifies is the “myth” that too much acknowledgment and appreciation cause people to work less, be less motivated, and put forth less effort. This is simply not the truth. People who are appreciated for who they are and the contribution they make on the job, on the team, to the organization want to perform at their best, remain engaged and are open to receiving acknowledgment and appreciation. If it’s heart-felt and authentic, it will reach people deeply, even if given often. I still stand by what I wrote in my first book, The Power of Acknowledgment; I think I put it pretty accurately: “Acknowledgment diminishes resentment and lethargy, while building enthusiasm, focus, excitement and commitment. Acknowledgment and striving go together. When people feel validated through acknowledgment, they can’t be stopped. They will bend over backwards, working massive overtime or go to great lengths if necessary, to get the job done the best they possibly can.” P.64 The Power of Acknowledgment by Judith W. Umlas ©2006 IIL Publishing Monique’s sad and heavy-hearted tale is easy to understand and is unfortunately (too) great an excuse not to acknowledge others. But ultimately, it won’t work as a strategy. The team will grow weary, lethargic, and less motivated over time if their efforts and if they themselves as team members aren’t fully acknowledged and appreciated. So, congratulations, Monique! You have won First Prize:
  • License to The Power of Acknowledgment On Demand Course (6 PDUs, 6 SEUs)
  • Power of Acknowledgment Competency Assessment prior to beginning it
  • One hour of virtual coaching with Judith W. Umlas, once the course is completed
Hopefully Monique and I can work together to debunk this all too common myth and make a difference in her current as well as future workplaces.

Second Prize: A.R.

A.R. (Anonymous) wrote: “Practice giving unto others as you would have them give unto you. SO if a boss doesn’t acknowledge or compliment me due to insecurity, I reciprocate. Also I suppose [I withhold it] to prevent a person from becoming too swell-headed.”

Well, the inversion of the Golden Rule in this case has a very negative effect, on both the would-be giver and the would-love-to-be recipient. Neither person wins in this case, and in a bit of a discussion, I learned that A.R. is now trying to acknowledge her boss for what she feels is praiseworthy, following the true direction of the Golden Rule. I’m optimistic that this could have a real impact on their relationship and on the results both produce! It might even turn things around completely.


So your prize is both the Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment e-Books! See the description here on www.gratefulleadership.com!

Third Prize: Simone De Souza

“That’s what they are paid for!” – Simone De Souza
Not what I believe, but what I’ve heard many a Leader say.

Yes, sadly this is a commonly used excuse for not acknowledging people. But those who do “what they’re paid for” with enthusiasm, integrity, clarity, focus and engagement are doing the job they are paid for, but at such a higher level than those that are just “getting the job done.” Your appreciation nurtures their energy, their enthusiasm and ability to give the tasks all they demand… and then some. Don’t hold back! Be generous, be kind, be your true self.

Simone, you will receive an e-book of either Grateful Leadership or The Power of Acknowledgment – your choice!

So you can see from this contest that we can all come up with excuses, good reasons even, for not acknowledging others. What we can and need to do, however, is basically “thank our minds for sharing” these creative responses to a given situation and – DO IT ANYWAY! In my true belief and experience, there is NO excuse good enough not to give a deserved acknowledgment. Even “timing is everything” is not good enough. Take the risk of being a bit inappropriate if you worry about that.

I once had a participant in one of my live keynote sessions run up from the audience right up on stage to the podium where I stood and give me a big hug because she thought what I was saying was so meaningful and important to her. Inappropriate? You might think it was. Wonderful? Heartfelt? Totally worth it? You bet!

So take the risk, and JUST DO IT! And feel free to connect with me at any time on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/judithumlas/ Message me about excuses that stop you from doing what truly makes a difference in your personal and professional lives, or about anything else related to the Power of Acknowledgment or Grateful Leadership!

So, in conclusion, do let me know:
What’s YOUR Best Excuse for NOT Acknowledging Someone who Truly Deserves it? Please let us know either by email (judy.umlas@iil.com) or message me on LinkedIn (Judith Umlas)

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