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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Manage Through Appreciations

OPEN Forum by American Express

Scott Belsky of Behance January 14th, 2009 - 03:29 PM

appreciationCareers are developed based on new opportunities and feedback exchange. Traditionally, feedback is constructive and is exchanged to put a spotlight on your weaknesses. Of course, the greatest barrier to acting on constructive feedback is the offense we take along with it. Often times, our ego makes us defensive and marginalizes the potential benefits. Especially among the creative set that is especially passionate about their work, negative feedback doesn’t always work.

It is worth considering other methods to improving the skills of others – and helping all people capitalize on their strengths. One of the greatest storytellers in the world, Jay O’Callahan...is ...a pioneer of Appreciations, a technique to improve the skills of storytellers without any demoralizing consequences. As O’Callahan develops his own stories and those of others, he insists on a method known as “sharing appreciations.”

Here’s the concept behind appreciations: Having just shared a story (or, in other contexts, a presentation, idea, etc…), you would go around and ask people to comment on the elements they appreciate. After hearing the aspects of your story that people appreciate most, you are likely to emphasize those components more (and thus de-emphasize the other components that are not appreciated) in the future.

... O’Callahan explains, “It is strange that, in our culture, we are trained to look for weaknesses. When I work with people, they are often surprised when I point out the wonderful crucial details - the parts that are alive.” O’Callahan goes on to suggest that, “if our eyes are always looking for weakness, we begin to lose the intuition to notice the beauty.”

Of course, the contrarian view to Jay O’Callahan’s approach is that more direct feedback and criticism might help one “cut to the chase.” One member of the Behance team attended a workshop and explained some initial frustrations, “I tend to like hearing ‘this is what you did well, and this is what didn’t work.’ At first, I was frustrated as I tried to figure out, from the appreciations that I received, what was noticeably missing in my stories. However, toward the end, I noticed the appreciations molding my stories.”

... “People need to relax to be able to discover. …Sometimes someone will say, ‘I just want to know how to improve, not what is good.’ People think that pointing out faults is the only way to improve. ... Appreciations are not about being polite. They are about pointing out what is alive. ... .”

The power of “appreciation” can have a role in any business. Another example is the rapidly growing network of creative professionals at Behance.net. ... When someone likes the work by a particular professional in the network, they simply click the “appreciate” button. ... Over time, some projects in a member’s portfolio become more appreciated and rise above the rest. This sends a very direct message to the member about which projects require more thought.

As you develop ways to improve your team and share feedback that makes a difference, consider the power of appreciations.

***Behance articles and tips are adapted from the writing and research of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network , the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.