Barely out of college, my husband and I took jobs at the same non-profit. Part-time, while we finished grad school. The night of our interview, rain pounded on the windows of the boardroom. A flash of lightening, booming thunder, and the lights went out.

We finished the interview in the dark. We would later joke about the inauspicious beginning to our relationship with the board who oversaw our work. We started this job in the dark, we would say, and we stayed in the dark throughout our employment.

I’ll never forget the day we found minutes to a meeting we had not attended in our mail slot. Without us knowing, the board had met to discuss our performance. A few not-so-nice comments had been made and then recorded in the minutes. And then someone had mistakenly distributed the minutes to us.

We felt disappointed, disillusioned, and distraught. More than that, we felt excluded and undervalued.

Leaders — in any setting — choose whether to include their employees or exclude them. They set the tone for how people are valued and appreciated for their contributions to the organization. Although there are certainly times when an employee needs to be addressed about performance issues, close attention needs to be paid to the how, when, and where the discussion happens.

No one wants to be on the outside. An important factor in valuing and engaging employees is recognizing their unique contributions and including them as key members of the team. Consider ways you can help your employees feel included.

When possible, invite your employees to participate in meetings that matter. If you are discussing something that affects them,encourage them to attend AND encourage them to take an active role in the discussion. In order to do that, you will need to ask good questions, allow time for thoughtful answers. And listen. By inviting their contribution you communicate that they are important and included.

Share information freely. Keeping people out of the loop, or holding back information without cause keeps people on the outside. Disclosing inside information to people brings them into the group, communicating trust and respect.

Be generous in expressing your appreciation. On a regular basis, use words, written or spoken, to show your employees that you recognize their value. You don’t have to be responding to a great accomplishment. Instead, make it an everyday practice to express thanks.

To increase the impact of your words, speak appreciation while others are listening. Just last week, a leader in an organization I work for ended a meeting by thanking me for what I do. In the same meeting, he expressed thanks to a long-time employee for his dedicated work. In those moments, the leader modeled what it means to value and engage employees.

To increase your ability to value and engage the people you are leading, help them feel included by inviting their participation, sharing information freely, and showing appreciation for them.

Join the conversation:

Have you ever been on the outside? If so, you may be more sensitive to including others. Share some ways you include others in your organization.

How do you show appreciation for the people you are leading?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.