Recently, I went to my favorite place, Café Blue, to do a little journaling and painting. Standing in my closet that morning, I took care to pick an outfit because I knew I would get complimented. The owners and employees at Café Blue are really good at noticing. They have commented on my jewelry, my outfits, even on my demeanor. And not in a disingenuous, flattery kind of way, but in an “I see you” kind of way. The vibe in there is one of intentional appreciation and community-building, and it’s the reason I want to go there whenever possible.

Sure enough, I did get complimented on my outfit, and I told them, “I wore my cutest thing today because I thought this might happen!” They laughed and said, “When people bring their ‘A’ game, how can we not notice it?!”

There is a very powerful principle in here that applies to individuals, leaders, and organizational cultures: Be the kind of place or person where people bring their best because they are sure it will get noticed.

I just got goosebumps typing that.

The alternative to this is something like, “Set (sometimes unrealistic and arbitrary) high standards and constantly monitor to make sure people are meeting them.” Yuck.

Instead of becoming Professional Appreciators, we do all kinds of other things. We send reminder texts and have serious feedback sit-downs and give quantitative data about how employees compare to one another. We make a lot of rules, set lots of policies. We rate employees on scales that can’t possibly capture what they are actually doing and who they are. We even do good and necessary things like give raises, bonuses, and better benefits.

Of course, we need employee handbooks and raises, and of course some people, no matter how much they are appreciated, aren’t performing well enough with their job duties or their behavior and need to be let go or reassigned.

But what would happen if we really tested our noticing and appreciation skills? What if our colleagues, friends, and employees thought to themselves, “I’m going to really bring my best today because I’m sure it will get noticed?” I really can’t think of a better motivator. It is most certainly worth a try.

P.S. This photo is from an art show I went to in Seattle last weekend. One of my fave pieces by someone who became a professional appreciator of the grocery store sign. Amazing what we can create when we pay attention.

P.S.S. A little newsletter break for me after this—as you have all heard, ad nauseum, I’m about to take August off. Be happy, be healthy, be rested and well, find some time to take an afternoon nap or blow off chores. I’ll be right there with you.

P.S.S.S. If you’re thinking about fall at all, check out my events page to see what’s coming!