How often do you acknowledge the people around you? And when was the last time you were acknowledged? In our consulting work, many of our work sessions end by giving participants the opportunity to acknowledge someone in the room that made a difference for them – we all love this part of the day, consultants and participants alike!

Acknowledgment is one of the practices that supports and reinforces a culture of high performance. As human beings, we want to make a difference and we are touched, moved and inspired when that contribution is recognized. We are also touched, moved and inspired when we express our acknowledgment to a specific individual or a group of individuals with authenticity and depth.

The definition of acknowledgment

ac·knowl·edg·ment [ak-nol-ij-muhnt]


  • an expression of appreciation.
  • a thing is done or given in appreciation or gratitude.
  • recognition or favorable notice of an act or achievement


Giving or receiving acknowledgment: which one are you best at?

In my experience over the last 10 years, acknowledgment is a practice that most of us in the business arena have limited skills in and therefore the impact is diminished.

Observing how acknowledgment is given in public; oftentimes we use the third person pronoun to speak about the person – “I’d like to acknowledge David, he’s such a great person”, rather than speaking to the person, looking directly at Joan to say, “Joan, I want to acknowledge you for the innovation assessment you produced, for the rigor it took to study the 150 interviews and extract the building blocks and leverage points. Delivering that report on time despite the difficulty of coordinating work between 3 sites demonstrates being unstoppable in honoring your commitment”. How do you give acknowledgment? 

Receiving acknowledgments: I observed in others and myself the tendency to deflect acknowledgment  –  “oh, that is just normal work”  – I used to think this was mostly a product of a certain style of French education and expectations in our culture and school system. How many of us were raised to consider that “normal effort” & results produced were nothing special to be noticed? This is what we translate into the business setting as “I just did my job” or “that is what I am paid for”.

I now consider that the difficulty of receiving acknowledgment for what it is, a gift that requires no explanation, justification, commentary, is not exclusive to the French. It is an intimate experience that we may feel uncomfortable with, perhaps because acknowledgment delivered well speaks to who we are. At the same time, deflecting acknowledgment deprives the person expressing it of the experience of making a gift to another human being.

Imagine watching a wonderful play or listening to a beautiful and moving concert, if the artists don’t stay on the stage at the end your acknowledgment has nowhere to go; acknowledgment requires someone to receive it to be a truly powerful experience for both parties. How do you receive acknowledgment? 

In what ways do you and the culture of your organization encourage the practice of acknowledgment? How have you seen it make a difference?

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