This article comes from Jeff Birk’s insightful talk, ‘Empowering your team through recognition and appreciation’, at our 2023 Toronto Sales Enablement Summit, check out his full presentation here.

As someone who has spent years in the sales enablement field, I can tell you that one of the most powerful ways to enhance performance and connection within your team is through effective appreciation and recognition

Time and again, I've seen how acknowledging great work and making people feel truly valued can transform attitudes, boost engagement, and propel teams to new heights of success. 

In this article, I'm going to share a roadmap for empowering your sales teams through appreciation and recognition. We'll explore the significance of connecting people to purpose, unlocking their potential for great work, and mastering the art of meaningful recognition. 

By the end, you'll have a deeper understanding of why these elements matter, along with practical strategies you can implement right away, so let’s dive in!

Connecting your team to the "Why"

Let's begin our journey by revisiting the wise words of Henry David Thoreau, the 19th-century philosopher and author. 

As the story goes, Thoreau once told his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson that he wanted to live in a small cabin near Walden Pond for a few years to "study the human condition." His objective? To "live life deliberately" and confront only the "essential facts of life."

During his time at Walden, Thoreau made a profound observation about the people he encountered working in sawmills, shops, and stores. 

He noticed a distinct lack of excitement and buy-in – a sense that they weren't feeling truly connected to their work. This realization led Thoreau to pen one of his most famous lines: 

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." 

What Thoreau was getting at is something that rings just as true today as it did nearly two centuries ago. People crave purpose; they want to feel that their efforts are meaningful and aligned with something greater than themselves. 

As Peter Drucker, the renowned business thinker, put it: 

"The purpose of business is to win a customer." 

Winning customers requires creating unique brand experiences they love, and to win in the marketplace, as former Campbell's CEO Doug Conant said, you must first "win the workplace" – engaging your people.

As leaders, it's our responsibility to help teams find and connect with that sense of purpose. One of the best ways is by identifying and articulating the "higher purpose" of what they do within the organization. 

Unfortunately, research shows only about 19% of employees feel capable of conveying their purpose emotionally, so take that as an opportunity to get your team to practice putting purpose into words with finesse and personality.  

By working with your team to explore and define their collective "why" – the impact they're striving to make and the principles that guide their work – you'll be planting the seeds for deeper engagement and inspiration. 

It takes practice, but getting comfortable talking about purpose authentically is a skill every leader should cultivate.