CG #53 – Refresh Your Team in 30 Minutes

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a “refresh” button for the exhausted team?  There is.

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Reading Time: 2.2 minutes

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It’s February as I’m writing this.  Groundhog Day has come and gone, and the reality of 6 more weeks of winter is sinking in.  Your team could use a pick-me-up.  The Appreciation Circle may be just the thing.

You may be thinking “Oh no, not another awkward, artificial act of forced intimacy at work!”   I did.   I’ve never been more wrong.

My first appreciation circle was with strangers during a week-long workshop, and I was nervous.  We’d worked together on team projects for the past couple of days, and some of us had eaten lunch together.  I’d had almost no interaction with some of them.  What if I couldn’t come up with genuine things to appreciate about everyone? What if their appreciations of me were so off I couldn’t accept them graciously, or pretend to?  I was full of trepidation as I sat down to write my list.

The instructions were simple:  1. Write down on thing you appreciate about each of your teammates, 2. Sit in a semi-circle with the person receiving appreciation facing the semi-circle. 3. Designate a recorder for each person. 4. One person at a time makes eye contact with the recipient and says what they appreciate about them.  This includes the recorder.  5.  The recipient says thank you to each person – nothing more or less.  6.  When everyone has spoken, the recipient gets their written list and trades places with the next recipient.  A new recorder is chosen.

An appreciation circle takes about 30 minutes for a team of 5-7.

My first surprise was how easy it was to come up with one thing I appreciated about each person.   Even the most difficult person had a quality or had done something I valued.  It was fun to think the appreciations up and fun to deliver them.  Best of all, I found myself looking for things to appreciate in people over the next few days, which was a delight.

The second surprise was what happened to people when they were being appreciated.  Being allowed to only say “thank you” slowed them down.  You could see them letting in what others appreciated about them.  Their eyes got softer and more open.

But it was my experience in the center of the circle that surprised me most.  People said the most lovely things to me.  It was like being bathed in light.  It didn’t matter whether I thought they were true.  It wasn’t like that.  It was like being given a really thoughtful gift, one the giver had poured their caring into so much that you could feel it.  The real gift they were giving was their vulnerability in wanting to give you something of value.

Here’s the thing about an appreciation circle – it’s a chance to learn something you can’t find out by yourself:  What other people value most about you.  What specifically they like about what you did or how you are.  It’s very particular to them and that experience, which makes it easy to receive.

My first appreciation circle was 15 years ago.  I still have my list.


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