Murphy’s team laws

Trapped in a paradox.

In the following blog article, I list a few of the most significant challenges that often arise in teams from my point of view. Speaking of teams (instead of groups) I roughly define them as:

  1. Has a common sense of purpose, a goal that binds everybody together and
  2. Contains quite different individuals who have taken over specific roles and tasks to achieve the team goal.

The following patterns occur quite often across many teams that I have worked with so far…


The information paradox
Team members usually like to get informed and be updated with the latest news about what all others are doing. However, they usually have a lot on their plate individually and are spammed with information anyway, meaning they do not want to be over-informed.

So, how to find the right level of suitable information?


The monitoring paradox
Many people appreciate to have free space and time to do what they want to do. They acknowledge if they are given the freedom to act on their own, being creative and developing concepts on their own. This contradicts the classic understanding of a traditional “manager”, who monitors the team, structures the work to be done and sets expectations. And do not forget, many people also rather like it if their supervisors set clear expectations making the direction to head to clearer for them.

How to find the right balance between “total control” and “laissez faire”?


The proximity paradox
Often team members like to be on their own, not hassled by others with a spatial area just for them (not having to share with others). They may enjoy working remotely allowing them to arrange their day-to-day life in the way they prefer. On the other hand, they also like to be in contact with others, share their experiences and work together with other team members to achieve a common goal.

Where do you draw the line between distance and closeness for team members?


The reliability paradox
Team members often like reliable work environments and processes. They appreciate if they know what is ahead of them and to be done. This gives them a sense of certainty, probably knowing: “I can do this!”. However, too much continuity can lead to dull and boring work routines. Humans need a fresh impulse and approach from time to time to get energized and to further develop and learn.

What ratio of change versus continuity do you apply for the teams you work with?


In this blog I have stated four different paradox aspects that you – as a team member or lead – have to successfully deal with in order to make the team effective and happy.

I encourage you to read on my next blog to receive a few ideas and tips on how to properly handle the paradoxes as described above.

How to live MORE life

In the blog I want MORE in my life! I have illustrated four traps that could hinder you significantly from being able to live a life in high quality and purpose. In the following article I would like to indicate a few aspects that could be helpful to bear in mind in order to live more in the future.

First of all, in the recent blog I have mentioned the Grimm fairy tale called “Stern Talers”. In this tale a poor and homeless orphaned girl with a goodhearted character meets several others along a journey through a forest (a hungry man, three cold children and one naked child) and shares her only belongings with these other poor creatures. As a consequence – and an indication from above – she is rewarded abundantly with talers falling from the sky, ending up as a rich girl.

The morale of this fairy tale is deeply humane and christian. So the question to you is: How and where could you be a good Samaritan and share a certain part of your wealth with others who are in need? Provide them with a bit of your own fortune and let yourself be transformed into a good person.
Being intentionally good to others has the energetic power of taking your life to a higher level.

Star Taler #1: Envisioning (“Where do I want to go?”)
Jack Nicklaus, widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, having won a record 18 career major championships, once said:

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.”

This is exactly the quality that I invite you to reinforce in your life from now on. Before making a great move create a mental picture of where you ideally will go to, what will be the final stage of your goal. Visualize this in the wildest colors and the nicest tunes you can come up with. And only then move on and do your first step towards your vision.

Star Taler #2: Self-awareness (“Who am I?”)
Buddha has once said: “We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves”.
Who am I? What drives me? What is important to me? Questions that you cannot escape and that you need to find answers for that deeply satisfy you. Unless those answers do not have a good quality your path to a successful life with purpose will still be rocky and difficult to travel.

Star Taler #3: Intrinsic motivation (“What drives me from within?”)
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

This famous quote by the painfully missed Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Inc. illustrates a crucial question for everyone of us. Why is it useful to get up in the morning?
Have you ever stayed in bed early being very sleepy and ill-humored and suddenly a burst of energy went through you thinking of an exciting project you might continue working on during the day?
This is exactly the quality I am talking of. What is so meaningful for you that it enables you to overcome significant obstacles and put a high amount of energy into an activity? You need to find out these qualities in your life in order to tap into your intrinsic motivation.

Star Taler #4: Uniqueness (“What makes me special?”)
Our lives are full of competition, here and there. Products, services, attention – from time to time we need to fight with others to win or to hold our ground. And to that there is an alternative way, that takes a lot of self-reflection (see above) and courage: to go the unique way. You may want to start by asking little questions like “What do I do different than many other people?”. For this question it is quite helpful to obtain feedback from others. You could ask for honest feedback with questions like: Which are the three adjectives that characterize me in distinction to all others? What is from your point of view my biggest asset or strength that I “bring to the table”? Whatever answers you will get to these questions, they will provide you with useful insights on how to live a more unique kind of life.

Invest in a few activities, some time and the people around you. Reflect your situation with a clear head and be rewarded – just like the poor girl – with star talers indicating that your life is full of meaning, purpose and happiness!

I know you can do this. I trust you.

I want MORE in my life!

…have you ever stated this before as well? Have you ever wondered, what would need to happen to become a “better” person or to live a life that is so much fuller and richer? Have you ever looked at other people and wondered, “Hmmmm, they seem to have it all, why can`t I have that?”.

Mind you, there are a few traps to beware of that could deceive and entangle you, bringing you on a course that is not useful for you at all. In the following I invite you to become acquainted with a few of these traps so you will be better prepared to avoid them in the future.

Trap #1: Direction (“Where am I heading?”)
Many voyages start with a clear picture of where you want to go. This is where the first question arises: Do you know, where you want to go? How clear/precise/crisp is the image that you have in front of your mental eyes of your goal?

Human history is full of examples that show: many engagements are doomed for failure due to lack of a clear vision for the impacted people. And in contrast think about this sentence: “Before the end of this decade, I want us to land an American on the Moon!” (announced by former US president John F. Kennedy before the US Congress in 1961). This is a perfect example of articulating a vision that electrified many people to make it happen. And it really happened. In summer of 1969 Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 stepped off the Lunar module’s ladder and onto the Moon’s surface.
Mission accomplished!


Trap #2: Self-perception („Who am I?“)
Currently we see many people in public life – may they be statesman, business leader or just prominent – who obviously suffer from a syndrome called Dunning-Kruger effect, shortly: DKE. This phenomenon is characterized by a distorted self-image and an overconfidence in one’s own actions. Two interesting results from studies carried out by Dunning and Kruger:

  1. Incompetent people often make wrong decisions.
  2. Incompetent people often do not realize that they have made wrong decisions.

This is what also explains why “faked news” are existing. In an attitude of shame (having said something obviously not true) and overconfidence, many people just stick to an obviously false fact pretending it to be true nevertheless.

All this shows that it is quite challenging to really understand “Who am I?” if I suffer from DKE or never ask for honest feedback regarding my behavior from others. How could it be possible to develop into a direction that makes me a better human being if I have a distorted self-perception and do not accept feedback from others? Impossible.


Trap #3: Ambition („How much do I want?“)
If you took a new job and the HR person would ask you: „How much do you want to earn in this position?“. What figure would you mention? A maximum figure, a medium figure or maybe a minimum? Or even none at all? The outcome of your actions depend on the ambition that is implied with setting a target (or a figure). Staying in the picture of the mentioned example, any figure stated by you has implications on your interaction with the HR guy. If you name a low figure he/she may think you have low expectations or a rather small self-confidence. If you state a very high figure, you may face early resistance and it could difficult to negotiate. Giving the other one a medium figure might be ok for him, but will it be ok for you? Do you really want to earn medium taking a new job? Or do you want to improve your salary taking this new challenge?
Yeah, the question was rather rhetorically…

Lastly, not stating a figure at all may leave the responsibility to your HR person (to come up with an offer) but it is risky for you as well. If you do not know, how much you deserve how could you ever be satisfied once you receive your first salary having started in the new job?

You need to set goals that attract you. Hereby, two positive consequences are implied for you: a) These goals get you energized and every morning tell you why it is good not to stay in bed but getting up to make something happen. b) You have a clear indicator showing you when you are successful. The SMARTer your goals are the easier it will be for you to reflect on your past once you have reached a milestone or let pass some time.


Trap #4: Competition (“Me in relation to others or me in a unique way?”)
Dave Ramsey once said: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” To what degree are you already part of a rat race with a “carrot” dangling in front of your face? How often does it happen that others attract you with certain benefits you could get if you just gave a little extra effort? Do you enjoy this competition? Is it good for you, mentally and physically? The rat race phenomenon is deeply ingrained in our socio-economic systems. They have certain benefits (innovation and growth for many), however also many con’s that lead to people suffering from burn-out, depression or a strong lack of purpose in life.

Many people have already found out that there are alternative ways to a rat race competition and that it can be in fact quite fulfilling to lead a life of uniqueness.

I invite you to read more about how to achieve more of EVERYTHING in my next blog.
Stay tuned!

Unleash the power of King NOPA

Using the methods and tools that come with the NOPA approach – introduced more in detail here – will enable you to unleash a „beast“ of King Kong size that has the potential to successfully defeat nowaday’s challenge I call VUCAzilla.
What do you need to feed the beast called King NOPA? I invite you to read on…

The power of networking
First of all, check your strategies to network with others. Who are you connected with currently? Which are usual ways that you connect with others and get connected? Do you use a face-to-face approach or rather go virtually (e.g. xing or linkedin) or a mixture of both? And how easy do you make it others to get connected with you?
If you want to extend your network you have to start reflecting who you want to get connected with. Which are the precious and valuable contacts that you want to gain in the near future? Put yourself into other’s shoes and think about questions like “Where are they?”, “What are they usually doing?”, “What are their preferences in getting connected?”. Like Woody Allen once said, “going there and meeting them” will increase your probability of success by 50%”. If you do not take the effort (and sometimes a bit of courage) to reach out to others you will never be able to actually maybe get surprised in a positive way. To provide an excellent product or a great service nowadays is – unfortunately – not sufficient anymore. It heavily depends on your network and the list of your contacts if you will be successful.

The power of openness
Secondly, take a step back and think of a situation where somebody gave you feedback in a way that you quite did not like. How did you react? Did you make an effort to stay open-minded or did you simply “shut down” trying to avoid any self-blaming and feelings of shame or guilt? The next time, somebody gives you a feedback with negative implications think of the Spock character in Star Trek and just say, “Fascinating!”. Try to extract a useful aspect out of the feedback you have just received and learn from it. Learning opportunities can be found on a daily business in our lives, but it requires a certain perspective different to the one we usually have. This change of perspective might have a positive impact on your entire way of communicating with others and your self-image.

The power of participation
A wise man (and good speaker) once said, “You can talk about everything, but not for more than 30 minutes.”. Whenever I am part of meetings where a lot of the interaction happens on a 1:n basis (one person speaking, all others just listening) my moderator heart heavily weeps and I wonder, how dare we allow such a waste of resources by not getting participants of meetings engaged, just listening, staying passive? Fortunately, there are already many useful formats available “out there” that enable vivid interaction among members of a group of people getting together. Websites like Liberating structures or Gamestorming offer a great variety of ready-to-use tools for free that maximize the rate of active participation within a group of individuals. These formats enable participants to get engaged, have fun and work together to achieve a successful meeting goal. I strongly encourage you to make use of the two mentioned web sources above (liberating structures and gamestorming) and thereby providing future meetings with lots of interaction, goal-orientation and fun. I guarantee you that your reputation of a moderator that is looked upon with admiration will rise significantly.

The power of agility
At the beginning of the last century, according to Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the fittest – in the sense of strongest – would survive others (less fitter) species. With challenges like the economic crisis and evolving new business models as a consequence of the emerging internet, this model has slightly changed to “Survival of the most agile”. As stated in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), “The person or element with the most flexibility in a system will have the highest influence on others.” In this sense we are questioned in our capability to quickly adapt to changes without losing touch with the values and strategic direction we have once chosen for our path to success. Which tools support your sense of agility? What makes it possible for you to stay flexible in terms of challenges that you face? What needs to happen in the near future for you to keep up a certain degree of flexibility, avoiding rigidness?

I encourage you to try out a few of the ideas and approaches explained above to unleash your very own King NOPA beast to successfully conquer VUCAzilla.

King NOPA versus VUCAzilla


You may have heard of the VUCA phenomenon, shaking the foundation of the established industries around the globe. However, you may wonder, what could help against it?
In addition to the Magnificent Seven that might be useful, I have just come across another simple concept called NOPA that I would like to introduce you to in this article.

N as in Networking stands for individuals and groups interacting not only within a certain community but also across hierarchical levels. The more often individuals and groups are networking the more probable that crucial information for an organization is passed around effectively.

Please ask yourself:

  • How often do people from different apartments come together within your organization?
    Is this taking place rather informally or rather within a formal frame?
  • What could you do to let members of your organization interact with each other more often?

O as in Openness stands for an attitude of staying rather open-minded to feedback even if it is against one’s natural point of view. In times of rapid changing business models in the market it is of vital importance to stay broad-minded in order to stay “ahead of the wave” by having several options available.

Please ask yourself:

  • If a seemingly unusal idea is coming up in a business meeting you have attended, how is this treated by the meeting members?
  • What could you do to more often protect the “wild ducks” (= employees with unorthodox points of view) within your organization and give them a platform?

 P as in Participation stands for the intentional act of taking responsibility within a change by taking accountability for certain activities and thereby driving an initiative to keep a transformation on track.

Please ask yourself:

  • How often do you see others in your community taking responsibility for an action that is linked to a change of “the way we used to work”?
  • What could you specifically do to take more initiative to drive changes within your organization?

A as in Agility stands for the capability to act to changes in a highly flexible manner and to adapt rather quickly and effectively.

Please ask yourself:

  • On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (very much): How would you rate the average capability of all your organization’s members in regards to agility?
  • What could you personally do to shift this average rating (question above) one step further towards a ten?

Each of the NOPA elements is an excellent asset to better cope with the negative impacts of the VUCA phenomenon. I invite you to reflect on specific steps to implement more NOPA within your organization.

Appetite in transformations


In any given transformation process, individually or within an organization, it is essential for you to focus on the crucial topics to be successful. Metaphorically speaking, there are many impacted people that have a lot of “hunger” that needs to be satisfied.
I hereby invite you to read more about the categories that I have found useful (working as a change facilitator) and to use this input to reflect on your own current challenges.

Nowadays, many change professionals start analyzing a transformation asking for the specific needs of participating and impacted individuals or groups. Ask yourself: What impacted group has which specific needs? Be as detailed as possible with upcoming answers. Get input from others for helpful answers (you may want to use a sounding board).

Between forces
In the last century, Kurt Lewin has created the concept of force fields that drag an impacted individual to either of two opposite directions. The one force field drags the individual to the present and stresses the good aspects of the present (“What was good in the past will be good in the future”). The other force field drags the individual to the future and stresses the good aspects of a potential future state (“What was good in the past will not be good enough in the future”).

To analyse these forces ask:

  • What arguments are in favour of keeping the present (and resist to any changes)?
  • What arguments are in favour of the change and the future solution/state?

Great change facilitators succeed in considering taboos and fears that impacted members may have or suffer from during a transformation. Do not hesitate to analyse potential fears of groups.
Ask yourself: What could it be that they fear the most during the change? What is it that they want to avoid at great costs? Use the upcoming answers for follow-up communication. Be transparent and pro-actively show that you are willing to address “the elephant in the room” and may have ideas for solutions that the majority of impacted people can benefit from.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum you focus – instead of fear – on the desires of your impacted individuals and groups: What they hope for and positively expect. Reflect on the “big emotional topics” that they long for and they may gain from the transformation.
Ask yourself: What big desire maybe (better) fulfilled once the change is achieved? As with arguments that you have collected during thinking about fears of your target group use output of this exercise for follow-up communication. You may want to create a vision design to give direction and emotional attraction.

Lost & Found
Beam yourself into a typical metro central station. They usually have a lost & found office. This is a suitable background for questions that you could use to reflect on further requirements of your target groups and individuals during the change.
Ask yourself:

  • What could they in particular lose during the change or once it is completed?
  • What could they gain (find) as a consequence of the change?

Once you have found answers on these lost/found questions you, of course, need to develop ideas on what to do with these findings. What needs to be done to communicate and compensate the losses? And what needs to be done to promote and benefit from the findings/gainings?

In any given change always start asking the “big questions” first.
Feel inspired by the above listed five categories to derive your own reliable set of HUNGER questions.

How to lose yourself in a VUCA world


Activities in our daily (work)life have gotten more and more complex over the past years and decades. Internet, real-time communication and global connectivity have not provided “golden solutions” to this challenge.

Read on if you want to find out how you could make it even worse and thereby get lost in a VUCA world…

Change for the sake of change
Start as many change initiatives at the same time as possible. Never finish a thing. Do not care at all about monitoring of success and never celebrate any achievements.

Fail deadlines
Never stick to once agreed on timelines or milestones. Keep others uninformed as long as possible. Do not show any reliability by committing to appointments early or on time. Be late for meetings often or miss them at all.

Be unsustainable
Focus only on the short-term opportunity or profit. Keep away from any strategic work and only be operative in your tasks. Never think about the “tomorrow”, only stay in the “today”.

Foster your insecurity
Cherish being insecure. Keep your (mental) instability at a maximum level. Never be safe of anything. Doubt everything, and participate in speculations all the time.

Distrust, a lot
Never trust anyone. Assume that everybody you meet has a “hidden agenda” working on betraying you behind your back. Put a lot of your effort into controlling other’s activities. Don’t appreciate others, it is just a waste of time.

Send ambiguous messages
If asked on a question answer in one direction but contradict yourself soon afterwards. Make a statement in a certain way, however sending body language signals that appear totally different. In simple terms: Say “yes”, but mean “no” (or vice versa).

Cultivate the chaos
Keep up the complexity on an astronomic level. Never choose a simple path if there is a more difficult one. Stay away from being clear in your communication. Rather express yourself in many formal and laborious words without bringing any message across.


The Magnificent Seven versus VUCA


VUCA is a phenomenon that describes the global situation since the cold world war is over. In this term each letter stands for a specific aspect:

  • V = Volatility.
    The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • U = Uncertainty.
    The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • C = Complexity.
    The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surround an organization.
  • A = Ambiguity.
    The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

What can you do – in your workplace, in your organization, with your colleagues, with clients – to ease the pain and negative consequences that are implied by VUCA?
I invite you to read on and get to know a few useful counter measures. I call them in reminiscence of the once bold and courageous seven cowboys, the “Magnificent Seven”.

Offer, install and keep on using rituals to enable others to “take a deep breath” from time to time so that they are able to digest new changes and past developments in their very own requested time period. Furthermore, well-installed rituals can support a group or team to improve their spirit and bond strongly.

Stable zones
Identify together with impacted colleagues/clients, what are his/her specific stable zones (behavior that was helpful in the past and will probably be useful in the future as well) and what are his/her instable zones: behavior that is either to be abolished (not desirable anymore) or that is new and needs to be learned/practiced.

Time as a gift and appreciation
In times of stress, excessive media supply and a continuous search for meaning, it makes a difference if you make a conscious effort to reach out to somebody to either lend him an ear or spend some quality time with him/her. Time is a rare and precious good. Used in a clever way, it can serve as an excellent invest for you together with the people who benefit from your gift.

Recurring availability
People like customers show a pattern of behavior that is not always easy to decipher. To make it easy for them to get to you, it might be helpful for them if you guarantee a certain availability (doesn’t need to be 24×7) that they can deal with successfully and make use of.

Foster relationships
Human beings are dependent on keeping relationships with others. By opening up and keeping relations with many individuals around you, you contribute a great deal to the “Great Network” that is called humanity. And this again makes sure that interaction becomes possible, interaction that always includes a chance of improvement and enjoying life together.

Clarity in communication
Think and rehearse before you communicate. In particular before presentations or crucial interactions it is important for you to consider carefully what kind of messages you want to bring across. A “message” can usually be expressed in a short main sentence including an emotional aspect, e.g. “It is important for us to follow this new process so that we can be successful.”

Follow your heart
This advice may look a little awkward, yet I can prove that – once you have chosen a path to your “heart” of things – you will thereby guarantee stability, predictability and a sense of reliability, both for yourself and all others around you. Reflect in detail on what it is you really want to do and achieve in life, then go for it. Your surroundings will soon realize the passion and power you develop in your actions. People are in general attracted by others who show passion and aspiration. So, if you have found your path and clearly show these characteristics, others will be attracted by you. This will lead to more connectivity and diminished VUCA effects.


3 x 3 methods to win over difficult people


From time to time you may meet people that appear extremely difficult to get along with and where you think: “Oh my god, this is a nightmare! It is so frustrating and annoying to work with this person (or group). What on earth could I do to make it easier for me to improve the relationship?”.

If this is the case, please read on and feel inspired by three different approaches I present to you that contain a three-step element in regards to working with resistance in a constructive manner.

Change your perspective
Use the simple “3 position” approach to find out more about different perspectives.

Think of a conflict or a challenging situation involving others, then…

  1. First go into position “ME” and ask yourself: What is my desire? What do I need?
  2. Secondly, change to position “YOU” and slip into the shoes of others that were participating in the conflict. Try to see the world from their position. Ask yourself: What do I see / feel / think / need on the YOU position (the position of the other person)?
  3. Thirdly, go to the position of a third person that is able to see both ME and YOU position. Observe, what you can perceive from this different point of view.

At last, go back to ME position and reflect on what you can take away from this exercise.

Crucial success factor: This lesson works best if you not only go through the positions mentally, but you actually work with moderation cards on the floor and change positions physically.

Basic resistance handling
From a change management perspective you can use a three-fold approach reflecting resistance.


Ask yourself: Is your counterpart…

  • not knowing?
    Then you will have to communicate and inform more than in the past. Use roadshows, information channels, emailing, websites, flyer. Offer knowledge transfer sessions and feedback opportunities.
  • unable?
    Then you will have to qualify more. Offer trainings, education sessions, support in knowledge transfer. Help impacted employees in better coping with new or adapted roles.
  • unwilling?
    This is the hardest part. In this case, you will have to enter a dialogue, reframing arguments, initiate a negotiation process, may use sanctions/rewards, and/or confront. You may also want to use coaching as a means to support and resolve conflicts.

First of all, you have to find out in which category your counterpart (impacted person) falls, then you choose suitable activities and approaches.

Point-of-view-based resistance handling
Paul Lahninger (“Resistance as a motivation”) has illustrated in his excellent book that you can use three different interventions to effectively deal with difficult people depending on your point of view.


  • Empathize if the YOU is supposed to be the corner stone of your message => Be an active listener, repeat to what you have heard in appreciative words, ask for more information
  • Rationalize if you want to put the TOPIC and the WE into the center of your message => Clarify topics, negotiate to find solutions for different requirements, delegate to others to find a solution together
  • Set boundaries if you want to put the ME into the center of your message => Show how you feel right now, ask for something, confront your counterpart, set conditions, answer in a provocative way

Your strategy very much depends on what do you want to be the central aspect in your message and interaction with the other person. Is it rather a YOU, WE or ME? This has a vital impact on your proceeding.

These are three different yet similar approaches and methods to cope with difficult personalities, may they be clients, partners, colleagues or employees.
I invite you to give this a chance and use some of these ideas the next time you find yourself in a situation with a difficult counterpart.

Good luck and have success!

How to motivate others well at work


According to a Gallup study circa 70% of employees in the USA say that they have never before received neither praise nor recognition in the workplace. Furthermore the study states that

  • 89% of managers think that money matters have caused ex-employees to leave their company
  • Whereas in fact only 12% of ex-employees said that money played a crucial part in their decision to leave a company.

There obviously is a perception gap between managers and employees considering motivating factors including recognition.

I invite you to use the information in this article to actively support in closing this perception gap in your organization.

Categories of recognition
Recognition can be applied in three different dimensions:

Praisal: Considers the performance of an employee or colleague. Focus is the contribution of the employee at the workplace over a longer period of time e.g. an entire calendar year.

Gratitude: Similar to praisal, gratitude focuses on a specific effort of an employee e.g. as part of a project.

Appreciation: Focuses on a person itself, e.g. certain behavior or attitude aspects.


This categorization illustrates that there are numerous ways to recognize others and thereby motivating them.

Languages of appreciation
Gary Chapman and Paul White have put the various forms of appreciation in five categories, so that they can be clearly separated. These five appreciation “languages” are:

  • Words of affirmation (verbally)
  • Tangible gifts (something you can grasp and present to others)
  • Acts of service (simply helping others)
  • Quality time (spending valuable time with somebody)
  • Appropriate physical touch (e.g. backslapping, to be applied carefully in our working culture)


The above mentioned authors have created a survey using 30 different questions to find out what preferences somebody has considering a prioritization/ranking of the five different appreciation styles.

If you want to dig a little deeper into their research, you may want to go here:

Practical tips to motivate others
Applying recognition can be a very powerful leadership tool, in fact, it is almost for free and does not require much effort at all. If you consider a few recommendations, as listed below, you may turn into a successful motivator, recognizing your employees or peers and thereby developing into an important influencer that is highly acknowledged by others:

  • Apply approving feedback shortly after a specific performance or an effort that a person has made. Do not wait too long.
  • Your feedback needs to be comprehensible. It has to be easy for your counterpart to understand what the feedback refers to.
  • Face-to-face trumps telephone trumps email/web chat. The more intimate the situation the stronger usually the feedback is perceived.
  • If you want to recognize a specific person, start by finding out what kind of appreciation language your counterpart prefers (see above). To make somebody a tangible present is in vain if this person does not value gifts at all. Your recognition act could even be counter-productive! When it comes to appreciation it is more important what the receiver values than what the sender prefers.

And a final tip on how to successfully get along with difficult characters: Start your dialogue with mentioning what you have lately observed that you liked about your counterpart. You may receive a surprised reaction and enter into a much more fruitful and appreciative interaction…