Here’s a little snippet from a Fast Company article on John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market:

Before the adjournment of every business meeting at Whole Foods, including the ones that Mackey conducts, participants do a round of “appreciations,” saying something nice about the people in the meeting.

He’s onto something. 

People want to be noticed an appreciated, not just for the tasks they complete but for who they are and the qualities they bring to the team. I do appreciations when I lead retrospectives.  I also put appreciations on the agenda at team meetings. I do appreciations first; it sets a tone that says people are valued. I use a particular form: “_______________, I appreciate you for _____________.”

Some people are uncomfortable expressing appreciation.  A few months ago I lead a workshop on leading project retrospectives.  When I got to the part about retrospectives, one of the managers protested: “We could never do that here.  All the people here are engineers — they don’t stand for that!”  She didn’t notice the engineers shaking their heads in disagreement.

Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, try giving an appreciation using the direct form, “_______________, I appreciate you for _____________.” It makes a difference.