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Authentic Appreciation: Leadership Lessons From the Hubble Telescope


Hubble telescope

Technical professionals tend to assume that people are self-contained and don’t need much appreciation. The truth is that we all need quality relationships and to feel appreciated. It is a fundamental human need, part of the fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Dr. Charles J. Pellerin, PhD, former director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, calls authentic appreciation “the single most important habit to enhance performance, reduce risk, and enhance (save) your marriage and other relationships.”

Pellerin knows a thing or two about managing teams, having launched a dozen satellites and led the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. He was a professor of leadership in the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder and now delivers training and consulting to global organizations in the government and commercial sectors through his company 4-D Systems.

In his workshops, Pellerin spends quite a bit of time demonstrating why appreciation is so critical and yet at the same time so underutilized as a management practice.

When was the last time you were appreciated for your work? How did it feel? Was it specific enough to be meaningful? Was it too little, too late? If you really walked on water to achieve a goal, was the reward or recognition proportional?

In his book How NASA Builds Teams, Pellerin names five qualities that must be present for appreciation to be authentic, sincere and effective. He calls them HAPPS:

  1. Habitual

  2. Authentic

  3. Prompt

  4. Proportional

  5. Specific

Try this powerful exercise: Use the HAPPS approach for 21 days in your workplace. Take the time to notice what others are doing and tell them you appreciate it. Do it right away, don’t wait for month-end or a formal newsletter to go out, do it now. Find things to appreciate about others you work with every day.

(By the way, appreciate your bosses, too. They don’t get enough positive feedback and you will win some points while you are at it.)

At the end of the 21 days, you will have created a solid habit which will build your brand as a leader.

You can watch and listen to a slideshow presentation about Dr. Charles Pellerin’s approach to authentic appreciation here:


How was your HAPPS experiment? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.

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