It may seem as though we would feel more connected to a group when we’re gaining something valuable from it – takeaways, benefits or payoffs – and the more value we gain, the more connected we’ll feel. So then it would seem that if we’re leading that group, we need to provide those takeaways in order to keep people engaged. There’s no doubt that offering something of value is an important way to make people feel connected to a group, but there is another way that is even more important. Let’s come at this from another direction.
When someone expresses deep gratitude to you for giving them something that is especially meaningful and valuable to them, you actually feel a deeper connection to them than when they gave you something. Both connections are powerful, but the value you feel from improving the life of someone else is even greater than the value you feel when someone else improves your life. Of course, the connection is greatest when the feeling of giving and receiving value is shared by both. Group dynamics work the same way.
The value of our lives comes more from what we give than from what we get, and so does the satisfaction we gain. This is true whether someone thanks us or not. But our feelings of connection increase more when they express their gratitude – whether it is directly to us or to others about us. This is what makes us feel that we really make a difference, that the world is a better place because we’re here.
In a culture of positive influence, people are intentional about bringing their own unique value to the group, and they are intentional about expressing their appreciation for the unique value that others bring. When you initiate this appreciation, it becomes easy for others to get on board because of the positive energy it brings to both the giver and the receiver.
Appreciation does not have to be orchestrated, scheduled or required. Let it flow as naturally as water. It can be expressed publicly or privately, but either way it should be personal. It can be appreciation for what someone did, or how they did it, or why they did it. Whenever possible, let your appreciation be an expression of your regard for their uniqueness. For example:
- “It was great the way you helped Jennifer handle that challenge. It took time and sacrifice and courage for you to do that. I really appreciate that you bring that to our team.”
Express to each member privately what you recognize that they bring to the group, how the group benefits from having them, and how you personally benefit from them. Express your appreciation when they express gratitude for each other. Others will follow, they will feel richer for doing it, and they will feel more connected to the group.