Every quarter when I collect and review feedback for the people I manage, I, of course, spend quite a bit of time thinking through my own observations and what the future could look like. In doing so these last couple of weeks, I also found myself reflecting on all the ways I'm grateful for what the people I manage bring to the table. Whether it's awesome leadership, collaboration, a positive attitude or design skills, every designer brings something unique and helpful to myself and their teams.

I think a lot of managers either forget or don't know that showing appreciation for people's contributions is one of the most powerful tools we have. Raises and promotions are absolutely ways to do so as well, but it's important not to underestimate how powerful it is to tell the people you manage that you value their contributions. Because while raises and promotions are fine tools, they're irregular ones. The great thing about appreciation is it can happen anytime. You don't have to wait for an annual process or approval from HR or even a 1:1. You can, right now, send an email to someone and describe how valuable they are. With a few taps on your keyboard you can let someone know you're glad to have them on the team and to get to work with them every day.

A lot of managers think "feedback" is generally about what's not going so well or what could be better. I've spent many years feeling pretty undervalued and unsure if I was even doing well at my job. Pointing out what's going well serves two pretty important purposes:

  1. It confirms to someone that they're doing things right. This seems silly to some people, probably. Like, they're still working here, don't they just know I think they're doing well? No, they don't. Or if they suspect they're doing well, they worry it's hubris or that they're missing something critical.
  2. It reinforces the good stuff and gives people permission to reach for more responsibility. Oh, your manager mentioned how great it was that you led that meeting? Boom, now you feel good about leading the next one. And, as a manager, now I don't have to go to that meeting.

While giving meaningful feedback about improvement areas is important, showing appreciation, I think, gives people more confidence to tackle those challenges. Appreciation lets people know you recognize their contributions and that you're prepared to help them through challenges.

So, take a minute and reach out to the people you manage (separately or in groups, I've done both in the past) and let them know how awesome they are. Talk about how bright the future is and how pumped you are to see what's next for them. Say thanks.