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The power of acknowledgment. Making work-life more impactful and less transactional.

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

How can people sense more meaning in the midst of their everyday actions at work and at home? Where does coaching play a role in this?

This is a scenario that is probably not far from the truth for most of us. Our to-do lists tend to be so full that we focus our sole efforts in knocking as many items off that list during the day as possible. We may feel the pleasurable rush of dopamine, but most importantly we are keeping ourselves busy. Work feels just work and moving from a task to another, and we fail to acknowledge the impact we are making. But when do we pause to acknowledge what we just accomplished or learned and let its meaningfulness sink in?

Acknowledgement is a powerful coaching tool that can be applied in a variety of settings. It is often used to give recognition to others, to help another person feel heard, encouraged and even motivated to stay on the course. Acknowledgement in a conversation can look like this: “Although you didn’t meet your goal, I want to acknowledge the progress you DID make this week. You are closer to your goal than if you had taken no action.”

Note that you do not need to agree with the other person’s decisions or actions to give an acknowledgement. However, you need to sound authentic and make it about the other person instead of it being about you. Acknowledgement is based on actions and behaviours that you’ve seen, heard or noticed, which distinguishes it from praise.

An acknowledgement can also help the other person to anchor an insight that they’ve just had. Instead of rushing through meaningful moments, such as when someone has had a break-throug an an aha-moment of delegating more of their work in the future and trusting their team members more, we can make these moments matter. We can stop and acknowledge and articulate what the value of that insight will be for the person in the future: “You will have a great impact on your team.” "You will find yourself in more meaningful and deeper relationships." We can help the person to visualize where they are gonna take it, and thus make it a more powerful moment for them.

When used with care, acknowledgements can be empowering and it is definitely one of the ways we can make work-life more impactful and less transactional. As a consequence more people could find work more meaningful instead of thinking that what they do has no impact. Acknowledgements are also important because we can articulate attributes of the other person that they may not be aware of, and thus increase their self-awareness and self-connection. It is rather easy to miss out on an opportunity to acknowledge someone or something and it happens to all of us if we don't consciously practice it.

Here are some valuable tips by Rob Stringer on how to make your acknowledgments powerful:

1. Take your opinion out: Don’t endorse – keep the focus on the other person, not on you: Example – “You took a big risk.” versus “I support that you took a big risk.”

2. Be specific: Example – “You were determined and persevered in meeting the deadline.” versus “Good job meeting the deadline.”

3. Be judicious: Acknowledgement is special – too much and it loses its powerful impact.

4. Look for attributes where the person shines in the situation and point them out, such as:

















5. Be genuine: People will know when the acknowledgement is honest and truthful.

Who or what deserves your acknowledgement today?


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