One question great leaders ask staff - frequently

People in leadership across all businesses tend to have similar goals - to continually improve productivity and workplace culture. It’s an important issue as business growth can be stunted by a lack of employee motivation.

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And if a recent survey is anything to go by some employers have their work cut out for them. A poll of 4,800 Australian workers by Survey Sampling International found less than half are happy with their jobs.

"Too many employees today are waiting to be praised for their efforts by their boss or colleagues."
Mike Irving, Performance coach

I suspect this high rate of job dissatisfaction stems from a lack of recognition at work - but not from the source you might think.

Too many employees today are waiting to be praised for their efforts by their boss or colleagues and if they don’t get the accolades they crave, it creates resistance and upsets.

Resentment creeps in if a staff member has completed a project and the boss isn’t singing their praises around the office, which distracts them from their next task.

It’s surprising how difficult it is for a staff member to move forward in their work if they haven’t received the recognition they feel they deserve.

They also leave themselves open to manipulation by others.

Bosses and colleagues can give and withdraw recognition, which may see staff become emotionally unstable and hinder their ability to perform their job

This is why this one question is so important: have you acknowledged yourself?


It’s a question when asked by the boss to staff will encourage self-leadership and improve self-esteem. This happens because workers are directed to recognise their own achievements rather than waiting for others to.

By asking staff ‘Have you acknowledged yourself?’ they are supported to cross their own finish lines and manage the agreements they make and keep with themselves.

It’s a conversation that might last less than a minute but it subtly helps staff feel good about themselves and makes a project feel complete, enabling them to then focus on the next task at hand.


The benefits of self-acknowledgement in the office are enormous and extend outside the office as well. They include:

Productive staff : People who don’t wait around for praise get on with the job and their achievements are likely to be greater as a result. They will make agreements with themselves and cross their own finish lines.

Self-esteem : Ensuring team members  acknowledge their own success improves their confidence, creating an overall good feeling in themselves  and a productive and enjoyable workplace. When people feel good they are more productive.

Self-leadership: Self acknowledgment is a fundamental of self-leadership which is proven to increase productivity in the workplace.

Companies want to hire ‘intrapreneurs’ to help build their organisations. An Intrapreneur is someone with great self-leadership skills and the most important one is the ability to feel good about yourself.

Ownership: Self-acknowledgement is ownership of a task or a project. If you’re waiting for someone else to tell you you’ve done a good job it indicates you didn’t really own the process. The process isn’t complete until you acknowledge it. That’s what ends the cycle.

Mike Irving is a Performance Coach and Founder of Advanced Business Abilities. He has 20 years’ experience and results in Business Management, Leadership Performance Coaching and Team Building.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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