The other day, I was catching up with one of my clients over the phone. She was sharing how something compelled her to call up one of her employees out of the blue to simply check in on them, and remind them how much she values their contributions and commitment to the organization. In her message, she reiterated that she was always just a phone call away should they want to discuss anything—professional or personal. The employee texted her later, saying that they really appreciated the check-in, and that her small gesture meant more to them than she realized.

Especially in times of crisis like the ones we now find ourselves in, you never know who needs a little recognition. These days, it seems like we’re all just barely keeping it together in one way or another. Oftentimes, that inner turmoil prevents us from realizing that we’re all experiencing hardship behind closed doors. This is exactly why creating a culture of recognition is more important now than ever before.

If you are proactive in letting your team members know that you see and acknowledge their efforts, it will validate all their unseen and thankless labor, and make them feel less alone on their journeys. Expressing your gratitude and appreciation to your employees—however awkward it may feel at first—is an essential part of demonstrating how much you care for them, and how much you rely on their talent.

So how can caring leaders create a culture of recognition? It doesn’t always require sweeping, company-wide gestures. In fact, grand statements can ring hollow or disingenuous if they’re not tailored to the individual you are trying to applaud. Understand that people receive and internalize compliments in different ways. Think of it as an extension of your communication style: some people like public acknowledgement, whereas others might feel embarrassed by the sting of a spotlight and prefer more private thanks.

Here are just a few ideas for expressing your appreciation:

  • Carve out a one-on-one meeting with someone, where you can give them your undivided attention and clearly articulate how much you value them.
  • Give small (non-cash) gifts that speak to how well you know the person and their interests/passions.
  • Send a private Thank You note that clearly outlines what they did and why you appreciate it so much.
  • Inform senior leaders of someone’s achievements, especially if you believe the person is often overlooked by management.
  • When at a complete loss, sometimes a plain old informal “thank you” does the trick. You’d be surprised how often we forget to say it when we mean to, and when it’s truly genuine, it can make a world of difference.

At the end of the day, however you choose to honor employee contributions should come from the heart. That is the crux of creating a culture of recognition as a caring leader—appreciation only works when it’s given and perceived sincerely. We shouldn’t offer recognition for the sake of superficially boosting morale; we should say it when we mean it, and seek out chances to do so on a regular basis. When we proclaim our appreciation for others boldly and proudly, it brings a little light into our otherwise mundane days. And in dark times, a little light goes a long way.