Appreciating genius …

2 May, 2022

Every month we meet the Manager and Clinical Psychologist pairs who jointly lead each of our MyST teams. In one such meeting recently we were discussing how a team were doing in their work. A theme emerged of team members’ needs and how it made such a difference to a team’s performance if these needs were recognised and directly met. If we want a team to work together collaboratively, then we have to attend to the need for people to feel sufficiently resourced so that they can afford to be generous towards their colleagues. If we want a team to tolerate working with risks and see them as developmental opportunities, then we have to attend to the need for people to process the emotional impacts of their work. And if we want a team to feel able to lead and inspire others in the network around a child then we have to attend to the need for people to feel confident that they are good at their jobs.

Taking this needs-focused approach we realised how leaders might see paying attention to their team members’ needs as a key part of their roles. After all, it’s pretty well known by now that how we behave as leaders effects our teams, and similarly how our teams function effects the care received by our service users and good care in turn leads to clients achieving good outcomes in their lives. We’ve come to realise at MyST that for our team members to do good work and continue this sustainably, there is a universal need to know that we are fully behind them and that we hold  an authentic belief in their capability to practice, to learn and to develop. By getting behind people and experiencing genuine appreciation for them, we are affirming that we know them to be more than capable enough to do the job well, and when we appreciate this about someone, the person concerned seems to appreciate it about themselves too.

We see appreciation as an embodied experience of the positive in someone else. When we think about it praise is something that can be seen as operating ‘out there’: It is something like ”well done, you did a great job”. This is an appraisal I give of you and what you do, and that’s the end of it. But in contrast, appreciation operates in a different domain as it directs us to the experience of the ‘appreciator’. Appreciation happens ‘in here’ within me in response to you and it involves more than words, it shows in our voice, our face, we feel it and it moves us.

Sometimes in MyST we orientate ourselves towards appreciation of other people by looking out for a person’s ‘genius’: We might ask ‘what is it that is totally genius about this person before me? Can I spot it? Can I connect with it? How is it present right here and now?’.  These types of questions help us to go beyond our value judgements of whether or not something is praise worthy as they orientate us towards truly connecting with the other person’s value and talents. This qualitative difference certainly seems to pack a punch. The appreciator feels wonderful in its discovery and usually it touches the appreciated person deeply. It is a core human need to be appreciated in a relationship.

It is not exactly a giant leap to realise this about our team members because we know this is what the children and families who use our service need in their relationships with us too. They need us to genuinely believe that as people they are more than enough to overcome their difficulties and they can readily rise to the challenges of life. If we think about it, could any of us give up on our capability to thrive when there is  someone firmly in our corner, fully behind us, genuinely appreciating the genius they see in us? It is through the help of our appreciators that we come to recognise our own value.  We witness children and families, time and again, flourishing in the light of this appreciation. With someone alongside us to genuinely appreciate our own personal genius, we can all thrive.

Jen & Jael

A Gwent Partnership Board Service