The Power of Appreciation in Human Performance
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
In the mid-90's, some friends and I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a Jean-Pierre Rampal concert in Los Angeles. The great flutist came out on the stage and apologized that he was not up to par because of a bad head cold, but said he was going to play anyway and do his best. He was pale and looked tired and we could hear in his voice how stuffy his nose and sinuses were. Imagine it: he played the flute, not a piano or guitar or some other instrument to which a head cold wouldn't matter! It was a lot to ask of a man who was about seventy-two at the time. But the auditorium was packed and that professional was not about to disappoint his fans by canceling the performance if he could help it.
So, he sat in a folding chair at one edge of the stage and began to play. Those of us that were near the stage could see that it was difficult for him at first, but as he continued to play, allowing his training and experience to get him started, he began to let himself get into the music and the music supported him. His work was his love and his motivation. It carried him. And, slowly, a transformation took place. We began to "catch" his love for what he was doing (not to mention that his playing was everything we could expect from one of the great performers) and applauded him enthusiastically between pieces -- more applause than a performer would usually expect between pieces. As we showed our appreciation, his cold ebbed, his color returned, his energy soared -- the star emerged on stage at his best. No audience could have asked for more.
When the scheduled program finished, we gave Rampal a standing ovation that went on, and on. It didn't stop until he returned to the stage -- flushed with the pleasure of our appreciation -- and gave a encore. He took off his jacket and began to play some of his own favorites. Light and happy. We gave him the applause and cheers you'd expect for a rock star. He came back for a second encore. He truly appeared to enjoy himself. Cold? What cold? I don't think any of his audiences could have ever seen a better performance from him at any age, in any condition.
Employers, if you want to see exceptional performance from your employees, applaud their good work as often and enthusiastically as you can. Employees, if you want your bosses to do well for you, show them your appreciation for their efforts and successes. In terms of human performance of all kinds, we all have audiences and do well when the audiences show they like what we're doing.