Appreciate behavior and hard work with Kudo Cards

Felipe Oliveira
5 min readApr 1, 2021


Hello people, how are you? Let’s talk a bit more about Management 3.0 practices? This time we’ll talk about a cute one, that’s the Kudo Cards!

Kudo, what now? What is a Kudo Card?

Cute, isn’t it? Well, Kudo is a word that can mean praise or honor. It is a different way of saying that we should acknowledge achievements from our colleagues and peers.

A Kudo Card is like a note, a nice gesture of appreciation and letting people know that their leaders and peers recognize their hard work. It is as simple as a note on a piece of paper. You give it to a person you admire, owe something to, or think you should congratulate or thank for something they have done, or just someone that you like.

There are several ways to use Kudo cards with your team. Some are given at natural and surprising moments to a specific person, others are done in specific sessions. But they are simple enough tools to be used by your teams.

Why should you use this kind of thing?

Appreciation is honoring people’s achievements and it is often the gas that fuels the fire of their motivation and engagement. It is through constant recognition that we perceive how people join in conversations and express their thoughts and theories. Or, we do it just to get a smile.

Kudo cards (check more here) might help you to cause those smiles. People need this, a reason to smile and feel good while working in the company. They need to feel that someone sees their good work, that there is a leadership that supports them and will help whenever necessary and it was by using this practice that I was able to provide that feeling.

How did I use Kudo Cards?

It is possible to use Kudo Cards in many different situations, in a more spontaneous manner, or a more controlled situation. We can use it during a retrospective, a collective feedback session, or simply because you felt the need to praise someone’s work. In my case, I did a little bit of each. In this article, I will give you an example of each of these experiences, I will show you how I used the cards and give you important tips to make it work.

Feedback during a retrospective

I can’t count how many times I facilitated a retrospective, but I certainly know how the retrospective was when I used Kudo Cards. It was a simple day, the team had just ended the sprint and we were performing a retrospective. Before I started I decided to ask people to think about appreciation or gratitude about a colleague. Then, I gave them a previously printed set of little cards, with words in them like “gratitude, congratulations, well done” etc., and asked them to write down whatever they felt like saying to another team member in the room.

At the time, we were still working from the office, so it was easy to print each Kudo card and place them on the table. I explained the exercise and asked the team to deliver the cards only when everyone had finished writing. So that everyone could see the cards being handed over, mingling and thanking each other.

Kudo box right before the retrospective

Still talking about the team mentioned above, on a specific occasion, I wanted to do something different from the usual retrospective. And although the sprint — this team used scrum — was almost over, I decided to do a different exercise.

A few days before the retrospective I asked each team member to write down something they wanted to share with one of their colleagues, like praising hard work or any other kind of compliment.

After that, I collected all of the cards and placed them in a little cardboard box I had found in a drawer of a company cabinet.

Days later, at the beginning of the retrospective, I presented the box and everyone took the cards with their respective names. It was amazing to see people reading kind and fun stuff about each other.

Spontaneous Kudo cards

I am the type of person who likes to surprise other people. I like to see people smiling, to give them little gifts on random days, but as we are living through a pandemic the options are quite limited. Thus, I decided to use, which displays an online version of the Kudo cards to create a special Kudo card for one of the company’s product leaders who had helped me through an unpleasant situation.

I had encountered a problem while managing a product development process, and, after a simple conversation with her, I was able to relax a bit and finish my day with not as many concerns as before. Once I finished the card, I posted it on the company’s intranet. Even though I didn’t get to actually SEE her reaction, she thanked me and seemed very happy with it.

What did I learn from all of this?

Kudo Cards are extremely simple things. Praising people’s achievements and efforts is also quite simple. We don’t need much to acknowledge how positive a person was or how they behaved or simply show them we remember their birthday. And Kudo Cards allow you this simplicity. These small acts of affection and attention to people can bring more engagement, increase motivation, well, it can do a lot. So I learned a simpler, loving way to show how important people are and how great my team is.

Another thing I’ve had to endure was distance limitations. Due to our current COVID-19 situation, we can’t just go to our colleague’s desk or perform an in person exercise. We can’t hug people as we used to. However, it’s possible to make an impression, to connect, and make an impact by using different tools which allow us to write Kudo cards, such as facilitation tools — miro, mural, jamboard — or using your company’s intranet or online workplace, where you can share it for everyone to see. Also, you can use the original kudo card or even create your own (I’ve done it, it’s fun).

Besides all that, try new things and situations. Take my example. I’ll start a new experiment with my company’s leadership, teaching them how to use Kudo cards and convincing them to use them whenever they feel like doing it for a team member or a peer. Will it work? I don’t know, but I’ll try anyway.

Finally, here are some things that you SHOULD do and SHOULD NOT do:

Should do:

  • Pay attention. There are a bunch of opportunities to use Kudo cards. Stay sharp and surprise people.
  • If someone is uncomfortable with writing a Kudo card, try giving them one yourself. No need to ask for their permission, just do it and see their reaction. Even if they end up not writing any, at least you’ve given them something to feel good about.

Should not do:

  • Don’t give any suggestions on to whom people should give a Kudo card or what they should write in it. Let them think and write down their own thoughts and feelings.
  • Don’t push it. If someone is uncomfortable with doing it, let them take their time.

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