The Power And Value Of Appreciation With Chris Littlefield – Episode 140

LFL 139 | Appreciation


The past few years have been difficult for all of us. The pandemic has affected us both physically and mentally. Although it is slowly getting back to normal, we can’t remove the fear of uncertainty and chaos just around the corner. This is why in this episode, Chris Littlefield of Beyond Thank You shares the importance of appreciation for people to move forward and overcome these difficult times. A great leader knows how to build meaningful relationships with his people. The power that it can bring is very evident. People would gain more courage, motivation, and positivity. Listen as Chris cites examples and instances of what a simple appreciation could bring to the table!

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The Power And Value Of Appreciation With Chris Littlefield

Thank you for joining me on another episode of Learning from Leaders. This episode is an interview with Chris Littlefield. He was a guest several episodes ago. His whole thing is around appreciation. He takes a novel approach to the importance of recognition, appreciation, and how it’s defined. What do we do? How do we most effectively recognize or appreciate those around us?

In the times that we’re in, never is it more important than right now in terms of understanding how we do this. If you look at a lot of the surveys and things that are coming out, you hear many more people talking about the importance of feeling valued and appreciation plays right into that. Let’s jump into it.

Chris, thank you for joining me again. This is episode number two for you. You are the appreciation expert, what a great time to bring you back on with everything that’s going on. One of the things that we’re struggling with over the past few years is making sure that we understand how to continue to appreciate people. I wanted to bring you back on to get into a discussion that can be valuable not only for individual leaders and managers but also for teams.

Now more than ever, people need to know their value and appreciate it. 2021 has taken an emotional toll, physical toll, and mental toll on people. As we get into this next iteration of what work might be, now more than ever, we need to be consciously building relationships and finding ways to be able to do that regardless of where people are located.

As the appreciation expert, you look at where things were before the pandemic and where they are now. Is there anything that you see in particular in terms of what’s changed?

First, I want to answer what hasn’t changed. What hasn’t changed is that to have people feel valued and appreciated, we need to make a conscious effort to build and maintain relationships with people. Appreciation is not an outcome. It’s like trust. It’s a status that we build and maintain with somebody with actions over time. One-off things don’t do it. Our relationships are constantly built and maintained. What hasn’t changed is that we need to be constantly doing that. How we do it and the way we do it has changed a little bit.

The fundamental mindset shift and the reason why I wrote the book, 75+ Team Building Activities for Remote Teams, was to give people tools to help them update their mindset and then think about the methods they’re using to connect and then give them the means to connect. What has changed is we’re not always together. Before, we can count on that physical environment to nurture our relationships.

That downtime beforehand, running into each other, walking into the building, or walking by someone’s desk and seeing a photo or seeing their face and realizing, “They look a little upset today,” and then slowing down and having a conversation. We had those physical cues and those unintentional run-ins to build those relationships. Now, we don’t have that unless we go into the office. Even when we’re there, people are behind masks, behind plexiglass, or whatever it is. We need to build that time into our existing meetings.

The time when we can ask people to come in for a virtual happy hour is over. People are done with extra time online. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do after a day of meetings is to have another one online where we continue the awkward conversation. Now, leaders need to consciously build it into that existing time that’s there. We don’t want to ask people to come to some other 1.5 hours thing after work after you’ve already spent eight hours. We want to build it in.

In the book, one of the things I share is the 1/6 rule. We should be doing this in person anyway. The 1/6 rule is that for every hour of meeting time, 1/6 of it or 10 minutes should be used for relationship building. For every two hours, twenty minutes. Nobody should have a three-hour meeting. That’s inhumane. We shouldn’t even do that. For every ten minutes, that may be getting on the call and saying, “What’s something that made you smile recently? How was your weekend?” It’s making that time for connection and going beyond asking the ceremonial, “How are you doing today?”

Now more than ever, people need to know they're valued and appreciated. Click To Tweet

People realize that when leaders ask that question, rarely do they want to hear the answer. It’s trying things that get people going. You can use a welcome question. My favorite one to ask at the beginning of the meeting is, what were you doing five minutes before the meeting today? The reason why we ask this is that what we’re doing five minutes before reminds us that people have lives going on and things happening before meeting with us.

You ask, “What were you doing five minutes before?” “I was running and trying to grab lunch before I got onto this call. I was wrapping up a report. I was dropping my kid off at school.” When we hear those things and people share that, it reminds us that they have other things going on. “You didn’t get food? Do you need five minutes to grab a cup of coffee or something to eat? Please bring your lunch here if you haven’t got to eat.” It gives us an opportunity to take care of people because we asked and gave an opportunity to understand what’s going on for them.

That is such a great opportunity. I love that 1/6 rule. I’m going to try and implement that where I can. That is powerful. One of the things that I’ve heard in regards to some of the organizations that I’ve worked with on the healthcare side, they haven’t been remote. You’ve got to be there. There’s no, “I’m not showing up. We’re going to do telemedicine for COVID and all these other things.” They have to be there.

From the standpoint of appreciation, what I have recognized in that industry is everybody has been head down for so long trying to navigate every crisis that comes along that they haven’t had a chance to come up and appreciate all of the sacrifices that people have had to make around them. Before this, you talked about the lines of work and the home being blown up. I would agree. They don’t exist anymore. Even though hospitals are remote or not remote, there’s still no disconnect. They’re always on.

In a conversation with somebody in Maine, we’re working on a program around what’s this next stage of leadership. How do you succeed with people in 2022? This is a person who is a mental health specialist and head of an EA program at a large, outdoor retailer. One of the things we’re talking about is that there’s a new skillset that’s needed right now that we didn’t need before. We needed it before. We had to be empathetic. We also need to be facilitators of reflection. One thing is that people try to recognize others for what they see. People don’t often want to be recognized just for what people see. We want to be recognized for what we don’t see and, specifically, what it takes to do what we’re doing.

We’re over the two-year mark of life in a pandemic. We need to practice what I call reflective recognition. Standard recognition is a process where I see something that Pat does that he appreciates. I see it and I appreciate what he does. I then acknowledge him for what I see. That’s important. We need to also make time to see what we’re not seeing. These past several years, many people are going to try to move back to business as usual. All of a sudden, the pace is going to slow down, the beds are going to stop being full, and then it’s going to go back to that normal grind where people didn’t feel appreciated before anyway.

I was doing a lot of work with hospitals before. I worked with Maine Medical Center up in Maine, which was cool because I got to work with people. I’m like, “This is where it all began for me. I was born in this hospital.” People don’t feel appreciated because we don’t see what they’re dealing with. Reflective recognition is an inquiry-based approach. This is something that I created. We often focus on the gap and people’s performance. We forget to see what it took to produce the results that they did.

Instead, ask the question, “What do you want to be recognized for? What are you proud of over these last two years?” Give people an opportunity to share. When they share, we say, “What was it like for you to be able to do that? What was it like for you to be able to hold the hand of somebody passing away with their family on the other side of the phone? What was it like to see people coming in that you couldn’t help because there weren’t resources to help them? What was it like for you? What were those vivid moments for you over this last year? What did it take to get through that?”

LFL 139 | Appreciation

Appreciation: As we get into this next iteration of what work might be, now more than ever, we need to consciously build relationships and find ways to be able to do that regardless of where people are located.


We need to be able to debrief. Many people are trying to shuttle people into mental health support, “Go see a counselor. Go see this person.” Not everybody wants to go and do that. We need to have a collective discussion to debrief what’s happened over these past several years. Give people an opportunity to be able to celebrate, reflect on, and acknowledge what’s happened.

I was working with a bunch of risk managers and hospitals and we’re talking about the risk of burnout and the risk that it has on care. If we have people burning out and making bad decisions, that has an impact both on our health care and our ability to provide service but also the legal implications if someone does something. Taking that time to be able to take care of people is not saying, “We have these health benefits, so use them.” Your 70-year-old nurse who’s been working for however many years is not going to say, “I’m going to go sit down with a counselor right now if I never have.”

We need to create time to have people go through that journey of reflecting on what happened over the last few years. This is where senior leaders come in, sit down, and say, “Let’s have a couple of roundtables. I want to reflect. I know we don’t have much time. I know you’re constantly busy but I want to hear what these last two years were like for you.”

What are you most proud of? What vivid moments were hard in the moment where you don’t want to ever forget what that was like and you want to capture that? What lessons do we learn about how we work together? As a team, how are we able to navigate through what is arguably the toughest time in our industry, in our field? How do we get through it? What was the impact of that on you? What was the impact of that on your family? By giving people an opportunity to share that, they don’t just acknowledge what happened but it also acknowledges them in the process.

Along those lines, we know that when we talk about things, in and of itself, naming what we’re feeling can be powerful in terms of helping people to deal with stuff. One of the conversations that I had with a healthcare director was saying that it feels like Groundhog Day for all of us. We show up, we grind, we go home exhausted, we go to sleep, we probably don’t do much other than that, and then we wake up and we start all over again.

Her point to this was talking about how all of the other outlets that they used to have, “I’d meet somebody after work for drinks. I’d go to a game. I’d watch my kids’ sporting events.” Whatever it might be, all those things had been taken away, so there were no other outlets for people to be able to have discussions around that. For her, that was what she was seeing in terms of some of that burnout.

There’s no rest. There’s no break. It’s important to understand the progress we’ve made. It’s not to ignore the difficulty of what’s going on but to also realize we are not at the same point we were back in 2020. We’re not at the same point we were in 2021. When those triggers come up and we see those numbers of beds start to fill again, it feels like that.

In January 2022, all of a sudden, the Omicron wave went up. My daughter’s school was like, “We’re going back to virtual for a week.” I wanted to cry. I was like, “I can’t do this again.” What it did is it triggered where I was in 2020. For four months, I was living in Santiago, Chile at the time. I’ve moved since you and I talked. I moved countries because it got so bad where we were. We’d had a revolution. We had four months in the pandemic where we couldn’t leave our building.

It takes less than a second to say, “thank you.” It takes less than a minute to make it meaningful. Click To Tweet

All of a sudden, going back to a remote school triggered all of those experiences from 2020, where I was locked inside. I was scared for my family. I was scared for our well-being. There was a revolution, in my case, going on outside at the same time. All those emotions came back. Every time there’s a wave of increased numbers, it’s going to trigger that trauma.

I did an interview with Mark Goldstein, who used to work at UCL as a trauma specialist. He goes, “We’re going to post-pandemic PTSD.” It’s going to be there. It’s not PTSD in that normal sense of someone getting shot at, domestic violence, or things like that. People are going to have trauma. It’s there because we had that experience. Anything that looks like that again is going to send us in that direction.

It’s important to remember that because we need to be aware. As leaders, we need to understand that the impact of these past several years is going to be showing up for years to come. We need to be able to understand that there’s been an impact and to decipher that not everything that looks like a performance issue is a performance issue. It may be a mental issue.

Also, probably more so something else than a performance issue. People had so much to deal with. When everybody has their head down grinding, nobody steps back to think of appreciating other people the way they would have before because everybody thinks, “This is what we’re supposed to be doing now.” Who has time to appreciate right now?

In appreciation, we need to expand how we think about it and move it beyond just saying thank you or giving a reward or award. I may have shared this when we spoke last time. When I think of the term recognition, many people collapse it with rewards and awards. Rewards and awards are not recognition of themselves. If you think about it as a spectrum, you’ve got rewards and awards a teeny little bit over here. I don’t put it as a pyramid because if we put it as a pyramid, we always put rewards and awards at the top, which is the least important thing. Those are those gestures we do.

Employee Appreciation Day is like celebrating someone’s birthday. We need to appreciate them all year long. That Employee Appreciation Day or that Nurses Week thing is when we put all the attention on this person for a day to celebrate that. If we take recognition, I break it down into appreciating the person, acknowledging the circumstances, recognizing effort in progress, rewarding results, and awarding standout results. All of those are separate skillsets.

That day-to-day appreciation is the one that makes the biggest difference right now. That’s appreciating people’s lives outside of work, appreciating their lives inside of work, and those day-to-day saying good morning when they come in, asking them what I can do for support. It’s giving somebody going in and saying, “Let me come in and cover you for twenty minutes. You can go to the bathroom and take a break. I got some food here.” Go and be able to do that. Carving time out and not asking people for additional hours at a time. It’s respecting their time at work by respecting their time outside of work. It’s not sending messages on the weekends.

Constantly acknowledging those circumstances they’re working in and thanking them for being there. “I know we’re down staff. I know the wave is up again and we can’t keep up with this in the healthcare industry.” Acknowledging that we’re down ten staff right now and you’re covering that, acknowledging that, and then letting them know what you’re doing to work on addressing it is as important. Also, acknowledging the circumstances in which people are working and then recognizing people for the effort and progress they’re making regardless of what’s going on. It’s making sure that we’re not pointing out all the things that people are doing well.

LFL 139 | Appreciation

Appreciation: Appreciation is not an outcome. It’s trust. It’s a status that we build and maintain with somebody with actions over time.


Those things that you mentioned take about ten seconds to do for somebody.

It takes less than a second to say thank you. It takes less than a minute to make it meaningful. If we want to make it meaningful, we simply remember that we let the person know we’re acknowledging them. Why are we acknowledging? What specifically are we appreciating about them? Focus on the process and not just the result that you saw. Let them know why you appreciate them specifically and what specifically you’re appreciating them for.

That goes for a lot of research that’s out there in regards to how we motivate people. When we motivate for effort, appreciate for effort, or recognize effort as opposed to outcome, the long-term benefit is much better in terms of keeping people motivated. It’s not about the outcome. You only get it when you reach the top of the pyramid. You get it because you’re putting in extra time and we appreciate that.

Imagine if you’re in a sporting game and everybody up in the stands was waiting to see if you won the game before they were going to cheer. Imagine what it’d be like to play with everybody up there looking at you and not saying anything and be like, “You won the game.” You wouldn’t play that hard. This is something we’re doing along the way. You reward people for the results they produce. Those are rewards.

Appreciation and acknowledgment recognition is what we’re doing along the way that keeps people performing, keeps them showing up, knowing that they are valued, knowing that they’re cared about, and knowing that they shouldn’t leave this place. This is a place where I feel good and where I get to be my best self.

It’s not an endpoint anymore. To me, it’s almost a thread that continues to run through the fabric of what we do. There’s no end to it. It’s woven into our day-to-day and what we do if we want to work.

Yes, if you’re not building your relationship with a person that’s breaking down, whether that’s at home or work. In Chester Elton’s book, Carrot Principle, he’s got an absolute phenomenal line. He’s like, “Imagine if you got married and you said I love you on your wedding day.” “I’m done.” No. You will still be married. It doesn’t work. It’s that constant actions over time to signal the people that we care. It’s making sure that the equation is not just me asking for things all the time but me showing that I care about the person and that I value more than what I need from you.

Along those lines, I want to shift gears for a minute and talk about caring about people’s time. When you are remote and you’re running meetings, it’s even more important to tighten things up. People don’t want to be in meetings a lot. Especially, I don’t want to be at a meeting that you told me is going to be 30 minutes long and we’re 38 minutes and we’re still going on because there was no real agenda or structure around this. What are your thoughts on that?

It's that constant actions over time to signal to people that we care. Click To Tweet

One is that we need to be more conscious about it. We need to understand that because I’m enjoying the meeting, it doesn’t mean the other person is. It doesn’t mean they have something else that’s going on afterward. This is a mistake that many leaders make. I had this conversation with somebody and this was a woman in the Philippines. She goes, “This boss that I’m coaching, he was having everybody in his team work over the weekend because he enjoyed working over the weekend.”

He’s not realizing that everyone else felt like they had to be there too because he was the boss. He was making people work seven days a week and everyone was burning out on his team but nobody was speaking up because he thought everybody was loving it, “We’re having great meetings.” That’s where we have to be aware of people’s boundaries.

We need to ask, what’s working for you? What’s not working for you? We spend so much time talking about work that we forget to talk about how we’re working together. Specifically, as we transition from one iteration of work to another, it’s to be able to have those conversations, “What’s working about how we’re working? What boundaries do you want to keep?”

One of the tools that I sent out in my newsletter is understanding each other’s activity, which is having people check in right now. Reflect over the past year on what worked and what hasn’t been working. What do you need for support? What are your conflicting responsibilities outside of work and inside of work so we can understand that? Also, talking about what worked this last year as a team, what we want to do next year, and what we don’t want to do next year. Having those conversations can be simple as, “What’s one thing that you love that we did last year to one thing that you would hope we don’t continue this year?” It’s to start the dialogue.

For leaders, make sure you use that 1/6 rule, make sure that you always make time for connection before content, and always make time for gratitude before goodbye or before you leave. That can be five minutes on either end, which is doing little things. When it comes to doing it, try welcome questions. Do pulse check questions when you get into your meetings. When people are in there, don’t expect them to say everything out loud. Have them open up the chat.

If you’ve got 4 or 5 people on your team, say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your energy level today? Put it into the chat.” “How are you feeling about your ability to keep up with everything at work and home on a scale of 1 to 10? Put it in the chat.” Once people put a number in, we can then have them explain out, “Why did you pick the number you did? Is there anything you, me, or the team could do to be able to bring that number up?” It’s simple things to be able to understand where you’re at and realize that appreciation. One of the best ways to appreciate people is flexibility and understanding.

As I look at our conversation so far, to me, even though it’s around appreciation, recognition, and different approaches, the theme is listening. Heightening how we listen is something that’s got to be strengthened. To me, I can ask the question but if I’m not curious about understanding how I make this better and what has impacted you, it falls on deaf ears and we demotivate people even more.

When do you feel most valued? Think about it, when someone’s asking about your expertise or they’re listening to you and the conversation, you’re like, “I feel amazing right now.” It’s a simple thing to ask a question and listen. Share back that you value what that person shared. It’s the easiest way. People forget that feedback is one of the best ways. It’s not negative and critical feedback all the time. That feed-forward that we’re giving to people is one of the best ways to acknowledge your staff.

LFL 139 | Appreciation

Appreciation: We need to have a collective discussion to debrief what’s happened over these last two years. And give people an opportunity to be able to celebrate, reflect on, and acknowledge what’s happened.


Many people are like, “I know one person who left because they hadn’t had a performance review in three years.” I want to know how I’m doing and how they can improve. People skip that process. They forget that many people are like, “I want to talk about my future here. I want to talk about my career.” One of the best ways to acknowledge people is to show that you care about them. It’s not just saying, “Good job.”

People don’t need to hear about a good job most of the time. They need to know they’re doing a good job. They don’t want to hear good jobs and platitudes. They want to know that you value them and showing you value them is valuing their career. I outlined in the book how to have a stake conversation, how to check in, talk about your performance, and what’s working. What do you care about? What are your career goals?

That’s what establishes the future that’s going to keep the person in your company because they realize there is a path forward for them and they’re going to grow. If you want to have people feel appreciated, it’s not just about compliments. It’s about showing that you understand them, their direction, what they care about, their goals, and you’re there to support them. Asking questions and listening and following up is what is going to make the biggest difference.

These all become more challenging in a remote setting. One of the pieces of information that I had seen years ago was that people are ten times more likely to leave an organization in the first year of employment than at any other point in their career. If we now remotely onboard people, if you think about that, I’m even more disconnected from the group. It becomes even more important to ask better questions and to be a better listener so that people feel as though they are invested and there’s a value that’s placed on them being part of that organization.

You have to create a relationship. You always had to do this. With onboarding, I would argue that the only thing that changed was the location but the intention needs to be the same, which is this person is coming on and my job is to connect with them intentionally. The problem is you don’t have them as a physical cue anymore to remind you to check in with them. You have to be intentional about it.

I’m back in the US but I spent a decade living abroad. I had to nurture and build relationships with my family and friends from 5,000 to 10,000 miles away, the Middle East and Chile. No matter where you are, it’s remembering that if I’m not building the relationship, if I’m not intentionally making time to connect, then I don’t know where that relationship is at. I need to make those small moments to send things to people to let them know I’m thinking of them, sending them resources. It’s those little things that you do where you’d say good morning to somebody. You’re saying good morning on the chat now but you’re checking in.

One thing that leaders can do to remind themselves is to get a picture of their team and put it up on their desks. It’s that physical reminder that I’m working with these people and remembering, “When was the last time I checked in with them?” Also, tracking that to be aware of it. It’s like, “I haven’t talked to so and so. They haven’t been complaining, so they must be good.” No. If they’re not complaining, they may be looking for another job and you just don’t know about it. I had one leader who was shocked when his person quit. He’s like, “I didn’t even know they were thinking of leaving.” I’m like, “That was probably the reason why they did.”

Even along those lines, you can have somebody that says, “I don’t need to be contacted every week. That’s not what I need.” That comes through having those questions and listening to what people like in terms of, “What’s the best way for us to continue to make sure that we stay in touch and we feel connected with what we’re doing here?”

One of the best ways to acknowledge people is to show that you care about them. Click To Tweet

One night, we went out for my wife’s birthday. There was an option when I was booking this Uber and I got a fancy one for the birthday. There was an option, “Would you like a chatty driver or silence?” We need to go and ask people their preferences and say, “Do you want me to check in? What’s the right amount of checking in for you? What’s the right amount of support for you? What am I doing that’s been helpful? What would you like me to do differently?”

Some leaders also need to factor in some people who may ask the questions and nobody gives you an honest answer. Instead of asking the question, “How can I best support you?” “What support do you think people need right now on our team?” Have them talk about others opposed to themselves and then usually, what they’re sharing is what they need.

I talked about it in terms of bridges. What we do is the more we behave in ways that make connections, the stronger our bridges become. If you don’t pay attention to that bridge and maintain it, eventually, it’s not going to be safe to cross. You won’t be able to do it. Those are the relationships that we constantly have.

That goes back to when I was in sales. I always used to go into offices and I used to talk about or ask myself, “When I go into this office, what am I doing to add a cable to make my relationship with this office stronger?” It could have been with the receptionist that maybe it’s finding out a little bit more about that person or about a nurse I was dealing with. Going in there, the intention was, how do I make this stronger? What cable can I add to this relationship to get stronger? It’s the same thing with any relationship we have. That’s what we do.

There’s an added value to what you’re talking about that people miss. When you have a strong bridge, when the wind picks up, it’s going to withstand it. My background is in conflict resolution. One of the biggest findings from our research, when I started looking at recognition as conflict prevention, is that we’ve built that relationship over time, we’ve built that trust, and we’ve done those things.

Many people are sharing it right now where it’s like, “The way that my boss showed up over the last couple of years to support me when I was dealing with everything that was going on, when I got sick, when I dealt with cancer,” all those things are happening in people’s lives. The way that people show up in those times is what strengthens that. It puts a cable down. It puts a brace underneath. When things fall apart, all of a sudden, you have the relationship there that’s going to withstand that.

I’ll never forget, one of the Under-Secretary-Generals at the United Nations was telling a story and he was like, “I had a woman on my team. When she got cancer, she said, ‘You go do whatever you need to do. You have a place when you come back.’” He goes, “When I got moved into the position I’m in, she was about to retire.” She goes, “I will never forget what you did to support me and that year. I’m going to extend my retirement for another two years so I can support you until you get through your term in this office. I won’t leave until you’re ready for me to leave.”

When we show up at a time when people need it or do those day-to-day things like talking to the person who’s working there, meeting the nurses, whatever, that’s what builds that foundation that’s going to make us withstand those difficult times like a global pandemic and the Great Resignation. It’s because we’ve built those relationships. If you haven’t built it already, you need to be doing it right now for the next wave that’s coming.

LFL 139 | Appreciation

Appreciation: If you want to have people feel appreciated, it’s not just about compliments. It’s about showing that you understand their direction, care about their goals, and support them.


Without question, I fully agree with that. You mentioned something about marriage. I think of the same thing, either marriage or hiring somebody. On the first day that you hire somebody, I don’t think anybody says, “I can’t wait till the day that we don’t get along. I can’t wait till the day that I’m going to put you on a performance improvement plan.” It’s a relationship.

The same thing in a marriage. Nobody stands on the altar and says, “I can’t wait till the day that we’re going to get divorced.” It happens and it’s because of the behaviors, the relationship that we were starting to build or had built to that point, we don’t maintain it anymore. It becomes unsafe. It can’t handle the stress and strain that is part of our natural existence. The more we build those cables, the stronger it becomes.

The work and fundamental mindset shift that people need to make is the idea that one action builds that bridge. It may build one cable, to use your analogy. It may put a brick out there. Because I did one action, it doesn’t mean that we have a relationship. Because I did one grandiose thing months ago, it doesn’t mean I checked the box. There’s no checking the box. There’s no one action that’s going to do it. It’s actions over time. It’s that compounded interest. As soon as you take it, it starts pulling it down.

It’s that famous study from The Gottman Institute. Everyone says that it’s a 1 to 3 ratio but it’s a 1 to 5 ratio of negative to positive interactions. I know you’ve heard this before and people have been quoting it for years. What people don’t realize is why that matters. Do you know this study that I’m talking about?

I know the study.

The study was that they filmed couples for fifteen minutes in the first year of their marriage talking about a difficult subject and that’s the part that often gets left out. They coded the fifteen-minute video to positive to negative interactions. They were able to predict with 92% accuracy when couples would be married in five years. It came down to how they communicated around a difficult subject. Was it more positive or more negative? When it was five positives for every negative, the couple stayed together. If it was below that, they got divorced. After it went over 13 positive to 1 negative because you’re up in the clouds anyway and you’re not having real conversations, they also got divorced.

That same thing applies in the workplace. We’re thinking about, “If I was to rate my communication from positive to negative with each one of my team members right now, what number would I have? If I was to do it with my spouse right now, what number would I have?” My wife and I went through a rough spot when we were both unemployed in Boston in 2008. We put two jars up because we realized we were more on the negative. At the end of the day, we’d be putting beans into the jar. I was like, “I love you. You’re beautiful.” I was like, “I need to up the numbers.”

Consciously think about our relationships, where do we stand, and what can I do today to be able to do that? If I’m asking for things or giving feedback, it’s coming in the negative. The negative is going to go up, so I need to counterbalance that by, “How are you doing today? How are the kids?” It’s not just doing inauthentic reaching out but checking in and pausing. When you think you don’t have time to do it, you don’t have time not to do it. If you don’t do it, you’re going to be spending time replacing that person or dealing with an even worse disengaged employee who’s not leaving.

Along the lines of your book, there are many valuable pearls in there and exercises. I can’t wait. I’m going to read through the whole thing. I know that there’s more than I can pull out of that. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you to get a hold of this book?

You can find it on my website at You can get it on Amazon. If you go to the website, you can also download an assessment that’s in the book right there. It’s one to check on how you are doing at building and maintaining relationships on your team, you can find that there. Also, I have a newsletter, The Nudge, where I send out tools and reminders every two weeks. Of course, connect to me on LinkedIn, Christopher Littlefield.

Chris, as always, great conversation. I love this. This is more valuable and more needed now than it was even several years ago. I’m excited. There’s a lot of opportunity for what’s to come. I do think that this is going to ship things. If we look at it that way as opposed to a crisis, there’s a lot that we’re going to be able to grow from here. Thanks for your input on this.

You’re welcome. We have a huge opportunity right now and that’s what’s amazing. People can connect from anywhere and we have the ability to be in people’s lives and their worlds. Let’s take advantage of it and use this.


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About Christopher Littlefield

LFL 139 | AppreciationMy mission is to transform the global conversation around giving and receiving recognition by providing programs that develop awareness, support authentic communication, and make a tangible difference in people’s lives at work and at home. Over the last few five years alone, I have worked with more than 7000 managers and employees from around the world to rethink their relationship to giving and receiving recognition and transform the conversation in their workplace to one where people feel fully valued and appreciated every day.

I started my career designing and facilitating programs to bring individuals from the most protracted international conflicts (Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, Armenia/Azerbaijan and most recently, Syria) into the room together to challenge their perceptions. For twelve years, I have committed my life to humanizing relationships and supporting people to authentically connect, communicate and see the good in the person across the table.

Although these experiences greatly influence and guide my work, it was the way a 15-minute acknowledgment activity transformed what had been a toxic, seemingly irresolvable conflict with my partner (yes, it is ironic we are conflict resolution specialists), into what to this day is the most authentic and productive work relationship I have ever had. It was the power of this experience that ignited my passion for employee recognition, launched my research, and subsequently, my training programs and company Beyond Thank You. I work internationally and I am based jointly in Lebanon, Chile, and the United States.


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