Improve Your Appreciation by Accelerating Personal Connection

As the leader of a team of three – or three hundred – do you think your team feels appreciated by their coworkers – and you?

Studies have shown that while we expect to get paid for the work we do, and we would all like to make more money, the number one factor in job satisfaction is not the amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do.

There is something deep within the human spirit that longs for appreciation. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and coworkers, it can be easy to feel like you are a part of a machine or just a number.

While communicating appreciation to employees and colleagues may sound easy, there is more to it than just saying “thank you.”

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders create environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things.

In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. “Officers eat last,” he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort–even their own survival–for the good of those in their care.
Too many workplaces are driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest. But the best ones foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a “Circle of Safety” that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.

Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.


According to author Simon Sinek, when we feel like we belong to a group and trust the people with whom we work, we naturally cooperate to face outside challenges and threats.

But when we do not have a sense of belonging, we are forced to invest time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and in so doing, we inadvertently make ourselves more vulnerable to the outside threats and challenges.

Plus, with our attention facing inward, we will also miss outside opportunities. When we feel safe among the people with whom we work, the more likely we are to survive and thrive.

As leaders, how do we learn to know and trust our team?

Perhaps the most truly valuable thing we can do if we are to truly serve our constituents is to know them personally.

It may be impossible to know all your team in a large organization, but to know the name and details of the life of someone we are trying to help makes a huge difference.

Rule 1. Keep it real – bring people together

The added complications of the virtual world often mean we use the Internet as a means to expedite and simplify communication and the relationships we build. The ability to maintain distance, even complete anonymity, has made it easier to stop acting as humans should – with humanity.

Real, live human interaction is how we feel a part of something, develop trust, and have the capacity to feel for others.

Trust is not formed through a screen – it is formed across a table. There is no such thing as virtual trust.

Rule 2. Keep it manageable – obey Dunbar’s number

Oxford professor and anthropologist Robin Dunbar arrived at the conclusion that people simply maintain more than about 150 close relationships. That magical number is the number of close relationships we are naturally designed to manage. Any more than that starts to cause a break down if rigid social systems, or effective hierarchy and bureaucracy, are not implemented to help manage the scale.

When a leader is able to personally know everyone in the group, the responsibility for their care becomes personal. The leader starts to see those for whom they are responsible as if they were their own family, and likewise, those in the group start to express ownership of their leader.

Rule 3. Meet the people you help

As social animals, it is imperative for us to see the actual, tangible impact of our time and effort for our work to have meaning and for us to be motivated to do it even better. When we are able to physically see the positive impact of the decisions we make or the work we do, not only do we feel that our work was worth it, but it also inspires us to work harder and do more.

In other words, bosses telling us how important the work is, is nowhere near as powerful as us getting to see it ourselves.

Rule 4. Give them time, not just money

Money is an abstraction of tangible resources or human effort. Unlike the time and effort that people spend on something, it is what money represents that gives it its value. Someone who gives us a lot of money, as our brains would interpret their behavior, is not necessarily as valuable to our protection as someone willing to commit their time and energy to us.

What produces loyalty, that irrational willingness to commit to the organization even when offered more money elsewhere, is the feeling that the leaders of the company would be willing, when it matters, to sacrifice their time and energy to help us.

Rule 5. Be patient – the rule of seven days and seven years

Our world is one of impatience. A world of instant gratification. A world ruled by dopamine. Google can give us the answers we want now. We can buy online and get what we want now. We can send and receive information instantaneously. We have gotten used to getting what we want when we want it.

It takes time to get to know someone and build the trust required to sustain a relationship, personal or professional. There’s no hard data on exactly how long it takes to feel like we trust someone. I know it takes more than seven days and fewer than seven years. It is quicker for some and slower for others. No one knows exactly how long it takes, but it takes patience.

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t


Set aside a two-hour time block in your schedule. On each of five chart tablets, write one of the rules above at the top.

Spend twenty minutes on each value, writing a phrase or action that you can use to demonstrate this rule to your team. If needed, place an asterisk by actions that will need more time to develop.

After the five, twenty-minute sessions, use the final twenty minutes to go over the chart tablets and select the one, single most action for that rule that you can implement immediately – and make a pact with yourself to do so.

After one month of implementing this action, call your immediate team together to ask them if they have noticed any difference in your leadership style. If needed, prompt them with a brief comment about “appreciation.”

After a time of discussion with your team, encourage them to go through the same exercise personally, in order to implement the rules with their teams.

After three months, gather your team for a thirty-minute discussion on the “appreciation temperature” of your organization. Celebrate the successes, and challenge your team (and yourself) to keep the process moving forward.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<


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