William James, the father of psychology, stated that a fundamental human need is to be appreciated. This idea is supported by many studies that show the number one need expressed by employees is to feel fully appreciated for their work. The bottom line: We do more for those who appreciate us.

Although leaders at all levels widely recognize the need for employee appreciation, it tends to be a blind spot. We generally believe we are much more appreciative of our employees than they think we are. Showing appreciation is not a matter of time and intention. It’s a matter of priority and action. We must convert our thoughts of appreciation into acts of appreciation.

You can appreciate something about an employee him/herself (e.g., professionalism, reliability, creativity, organization, anticipating needs, enthusiasm, helpfulness to others, balancing work and family). You can also appreciate an employee’s performance (e.g., quality of work, teamwork, hitting a deadline, great presentation, consistency of results over time, level of commitment).

Keep in mind that appreciation is certainly not a one-size-fits-all need, so we need to personalize our appreciation. For example, being recognized at a big department or company meeting might trigger more perspiration than inspiration for an introverted employee. Instead, use the information you learn about your employees to present an appropriate gift, token or sincere expression of appreciation. Invariably, the gift will be less important than the time and thought that went into it.

The good news is leaders have complete control over this type of appreciation. No budget limitations or excuses here – there are literally thousands of ways to show your appreciation at little or no cost. Our goal is to be creative and outthink our competition, not outspend them.

Light up someone’s world with a little appreciation today!