Lessons From the Court: Acknowledge the Success of Others
By: Jen O’Meara, Ph.D.
The score is close. One more point and the match is yours. You serve the ball and — the serve is terrible. Your opponent slams a return that zips right by you. At this point, you can either hang your head and mutter to yourself about your lousy serve, or you can look your opponent right in the eye and acknowledge their good shot. Which do you do?
You acknowledge their shot. Here’s why.
Acknowledging the shot shows respect for your opponent. It reflects your good sportsmanship. It shows that you appreciate a good performance. Acknowledge the shot — even if it hurts, and even if you think the shot was more lucky than skillful. You, after all, have likely been the benefactor of a few lucky shots yourself.
You should likewise get into the habit of acknowledging the good work of others in the business world. The stakes there — and, more importantly, the benefits — are even higher, especially for leaders.
In his post “Leaders Must Master the Art of Acknowledgement,” leadership coach Greg Bell explains that “recognizing people for their accomplishments and acknowledging a job well-done are essential to employee engagement and satisfaction; it also boosts productivity, changes behavior, and impacts the overall workplace culture.”
In other words, acknowledging good work shows your appreciation for a job well done and inspires those around you to perform at a high level. It gives people respect and makes people feel seen and heard, which in turn leads to a positive and supportive workplace. We know that positive recognition ultimately leads to happier employees who are much more invested in their jobs and organizations than their unhappy counterparts.
Given these benefits, it’s easy to see why we should acknowledge the good work of others who are on our own team. But this begs the question: why on earth should we acknowledge a good shot by your opponent?
The answer, plain and simple, is respect. Team USA Softball coach Mike Candrea explains that “respecting your opponent is an important part of the game. . . If you respect the game you play, then it only makes sense to respect the player with the skill to oppose you.”
Good opponents, whether on the court or in the office, push you to be better — they push you to elevate your game and perform at your peak. If you get complacent, you will get beat. A worthy opponent is an invaluable motivator, worthy of your respect for that reason alone.
Racquetball icons Cliff Swain and Sudsy Monchik continuously battled for the World #1 ranking throughout the ‘90s. I have the privilege of knowing them both, and they both will tell you that their rivalry is what pushed their performance to new levels. And trust me — if even Cliff and Sudsy can respect each other, you and I can certainly respect our opponents as well.
Jen O’Meara is an Associate Professor of Business Communications and a 3-time US Open national racquetball champion.