How to Champion Validation in Your Organization

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You know it the minute you walk into the doors of an organization. You feel the camaraderie. People are connected. They respect and trust each other.The energy. The pulse. This place is pumping out enthusiasm and positivity. The receptionist makes eye contact, smiles and is sitting tall in her chair.. People. Your associates. Your direct report. They are all looking for validation. It might stem from being picked last for the dodge ball team but it's there. A deep need for validation.

I just watched an interesting YouTube directed by Kurt Kuenne called "Validation". My co-instructor at Duke University, Sandy Lewis, shared it with our class and it is a real eye-opener. It's a fable about a parking attendant who gives REAL validation "“ dispensing free genuine compliments and parking. Watching this character transform the lives of the dreary folks just walking up to get their ticket validated is interesting. He stands there and gives out genuine compliments like "that dress you are wearing matches your eyes" or "you are amazing". Once he has the customer smiling and transformed, he validates their parking ticket. This ends up have a ripple effect and pretty soon there is an enormous line of folks looking for validation and transformation. So think about that. What if you could change your organization just through validation?

Let's see how it's done.

It always starts with you.

This is what I admire most about my co-instructor Sandy. She is always positive. She is always showing appreciation. There are no bad apples. The glass is always half full. What kind of aura are you sharing with the world? Are you Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? Sandy is definitely Winnie the Pooh. Spreading sunshine and connection wherever she goes. Look at yourself in the mirror. What kind of energy are you sending out? It's impossible to validate anyone else if you can't validate yourself. As written by Dr. Linda Sapadin in her article, The Importance of Validation, "First and foremost, you need to give it to yourself. When you recognize your good traits, you are not being narcissistic. When you praise yourself for your accomplishments (provided you don't go overboard), you are not being self-centered." Self-validation is the starting point.

Be present with your co-workers.

Technology kills being present. Looking at your phone while sitting in a meeting or getting off a few emails while listening to your assistant complain is not going to work. This happened the other day. And when I realized I couldn't hear what he was saying, I stopped. I said "give me a minute to finish this email. I want to be able to listen to you." You cannot be in two places at the same time. Pick one and show up. Be present.

Constantly be scanning for opportunities to compliment folks.

As Kenneth H. Blanchard, The One Minute Manager, espouses "Help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right." Don't you gravitate towards folks who compliment you? The acknowledgement is infectious. If you infect one person with a genuine compliment, it spreads. A social "pay it forward". In the YouTube spot, people lined up for the validation. You will need to seek it out. In the ladies room, "that's a pretty blouse." At the employee meeting, "I love your laugh". Via email, "thanks for making this happen so quickly." Spread the love.

Try and be as specific as possible.

If you are specific it's more genuine. Example: "Good job" or "you were so timely and accurate with this report, I was able to sway the board". Which feels better to you? I know it's faster and easier to just say "good job". Heck, some folks might be surprised if at you least said that instead of deafening silence. Why do you like someone's tie? Or what is so great about the spreadsheet? Being specific helps it connect.

If practical, be as public as possible. Vince Lombardi famously said "Praise in public, criticize in private". Sandy did this. She asked me to swap classes with her so that she could go on a trip with her husband to Barcelona. It wasn't a big deal to me. She told the whole class how generous I was for agreeing to the swap.

It was unexpected but her public appreciation and validation was terrific. And guess who I am likely to do a favor for in the future? Right. When someone does something right be sure to publicize it.

This is not a quick fix.It is a slow process to have an impact on an organization. Similar to the story of the boy throwing starfish one at a time into the ocean to save them "“ The old man replied, "But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I'm afraid you won't really be able to make much of a difference."

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, "It made a difference to that one!" So go out there and make a difference in just one person's life. In a month or so it will be your entire department, and then your division; eventually, your entire organization.

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About the author

Cathy Graham

Cathy Graham is on a quest to free folks from overwhelming thoughts one habit at a time. All recovering worriers are welcome at to pick up their free copy of 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits You Can Kick Start Today!