The Power of Acknowledgment – Recognising The Drummer not just the Lead Singer…

The Power of Acknowledgment – Recognising The Drummer not just the Lead Singer…


One of the most useful tools in your tool box for building relatedness is acknowledgement. The leader’s primary responsibility is to create the most effective relationships possible. That means the job is never done. It is always a work in progress. You need all the tools you can find and one of the best is acknowledgement.

Acknowledgment (specific) Not Praise (general)
People who are masterful at acknowledgment listen carefully to what is important to others and then look for ways to acknowledge the other person when s/he has done things or made choices that support those values or goals. An example of acknowledgment is: “I want to acknowledge the courage it took for you to volunteer to be the spokesperson. I know that public speaking is a personal skill that you want to improve.”

We tend to be extremely stingy with our acknowledgements.
Agreed, we more frequently hand out “good job boys and girls” for exceptional performance – as it’s hard to ignore the star players, the Lead singer.

But what about everyone else?
Since no one can accomplish anything by themselves what about those who contribute to producing that exceptional result? What about the player who rarely gets noticed but practices at 100% every day? What about the employee who is always at work, on time and ready to go? They are so consistent and reliable that their work just fades to the background, like elevator music. They are the drummer in the background.

Good practice suggests that you consistently acknowledge your team and individuals for their contribution to the team, to collaboration. Sure, there will be times to acknowledge individual effort or what you appreciate about people, however, in our commitment to collaborative and Team working, your acknowledgements will be most effective when directed in that way. You must acknowledge people for skills and behaviours that are meaningful to the employee or the team or the project.

Acknowledgement is a two-way street. As poor as we are at giving it we might be weaker at receiving it. We can be nervous, uncomfortable and wondering if there isn’t someone behind us that the acknowledgement is really intended for. We may also tend to down-play it with “Aw heck I got lucky” or “no big deal”. Please remember that acknowledgement is a gift that someone is attempting to give to you. You wouldn’t throw a gift back in someones face would you? A simple “thank you” to an acknowledgement will suffice.


How To (Yes Really) Acknowledge Someone

  1. When you acknowledge someone speak in first person. In other words, it isn’t a eulogy. Speak directly to them not about them. It isn’t ‘he or she did this or that’. It is “you are”, or “you did” or “I want to appreciate you for XXX.”
  2. Do not tell the story about why you are acknowledging them. Just make the acknowledgement. JDI
  3. Tell people what they did well – be specific. “You were determined and persevered in meeting the deadline.” versus “Good job meeting the deadline.”
  4. Tell people how good you feel about what they did well and how it helps the organisation and the others who work there.
  5. Encourage the behaviour you want repeated. Simply put: you get more of what you choose to focus on.
  6. Be judicious: Acknowledgement is special – too much and it loses its powerful impact.
  7. Look for attributes where the person shines in the situation and point them out, such as: Determination, Perseverance, Courage, Focus, Creative, Positive, Organised, Confident, Flexible, Gracious, Motivating, Insightful, Bold, Accountable

Every time you acknowledge someone you move a step or two closer to having the quality relationship you want. Acknowledgment is not random; it is used strategically (sincerely) with the positive intention of growing and developing others. The act of noticing Behaviours that have a positive impact on the person and the Team helps people get clear on the impact they are making.


Paul Fox
Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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