I find the idea of the 5 Love Languages very interesting. Coined by marriage counsellor Dr Gary Chapman in 1992, he noticed couples in his sessions weren’t aligning on how they showed and accepted love for each other. He delved into how they were communicating and found that the way they expressed love fell into five categories:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical touch
Still so pervasive in our conversations and thoughts on relationships almost 30 years later, I wondered if the Love Languages could be applied to how people in leadership positions can connect with their teams on a deeper level — as languages of appreciation. I’ve worked under some great leaders in my time, and have also spent my time recently leading a great Marketing team here at Pounce. What is it that drives people to continue to perform to the best of their ability day-in and day-out? I explore the five languages of appreciation below.
Words of Affirmation = Recognition
I thought about the crux of what ‘Words of Affirmation’ triggers inside a human and in a work setting, I believe recognition would be the key driver. These people strive to achieve and thrive on positive affirmation. Encourage your team members who thrive on recognition to keep developing themselves professionally, and to always seek out new and challenging tasks.
Acts of Service = Coverfire
These kinds of people often hate being singled out in the workplace, but thrive under the network of support their team or leadership bring. As a leader, if you help out with their workload by assisting them in finishing a task, or supporting them even when mistakes are made, you will have earned their loyalty, and drive them to do their best work. This will show that you value what they do.
Quality Time = Professional Development
For some people, Coverfire and Recognition aren’t quite their ‘language’ — for them it’s a strong investment in their growth. So how as a leader can you help this employee? Send them to courses, give them engaging content to consume, support them holistically and you will earn their undying loyalty.
Physical Touch = One-on-Ones
The closest thing that comes to physical Touch in a workplace context could be considered Professional Intimacy. So what does that mean? People with this language respond to leaders with open-door policies where two-way discussion can always take place, and to leaders who take an interest in their life and work. Take this employee along to client pitches and meetings where they’ll shine.
Gifts = Rewards
Some people may find spending time with their leaders is not the driver they need to produce good work. They appreciate being rewarded with tangible items, which helps them see their worth to an organisation or their leadership. Leaving a bunch of flowers, or sweets, or putting a prize up-for-grabs after setting them a crazy stretch bonus will ensure that these types of people remain engaged to do their best work.
Engaging your team
Do you know what type of people you have in your team? Do you know how to best lead your team? Why not try the following exercise:
Put the 5 languages in buckets and try to pair up your employees based on your initial observations. Try for 3 months to do things that are empathetic to their unique way of working and watch the magic unfold.
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