A few years ago I had the privilege of coaching an entrepreneur who was leading a rapidly growing company. The company had a solid culture that focused on helping people become the best they could be at whatever it was they did for the company, as well as in their personal lives.
From the day I first entered the business, I was struck by the incredible level of loyalty that the employees had to the entrepreneur (who served as CEO to the business). There were employees who openly acknowledged that they would do virtually anything for this person.
During my explorations to help the CEO become more efficient, I quickly learned the secret to his success…he took time every day to recognize the accomplishments of his people. Indeed he was the embodiment of the concept that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t worry about who gets the credit.
In a private moment one afternoon I asked him how he did it. His response got my attention…
He quietly rose from his chair and reached into his right front pants pocket, removing a small handful of dimes and placing them on the right side of his desk. Then he reached into his left front pants pocket and removed a smaller handful of dimes and placed them on the left hand side of his desk and say down.
Next, he explained to me that each morning he placed 20 dimes in his right hand pocket to remind him to take time during the day to recognize 20 members of his team for their good performance. With each recognition, he transferred a dime from the right hand pocket to the left hand pocket to help him stay on track.
When the end of the day came, he would always reach into the right hand pocket and see if he had hit his target for the day. If so, he would head home. If not, he would walk around until he finished the task or make phone calls to leave voice mails or hand write notes and leave them on people’s desks.
It was a beautifully simple way of keeping the recognition of his employees front of mind and making sure that even on the most hectic of days he took time to let them know how much he appreciated them. In return they performed better as a team and as individuals than any other group of people I’ve had the privilege of working with in my 25 years as a consultant, and they helped to build a highly successful business.
ACTION ADVICE: Take a look at how often are you recognizing the good work your people do each day. Employees often report that they only see leaders when something is wrong, and seldom hear about the things that are right. Start taking time each day to let at least 3-5 people on your team know they are appreciated and you’ll soon see a marked difference in your culture and your team’s performance. All it takes is a quick face-to-face visit, a brief phone call, or a handwritten note (not an e-mail that gets lost in the daily inbox rush) to have a huge impact.
One caveat…remember that such praise needs to be specific and ideally contemporaneous with the performance of the good work. If they do something good today, don’t wait until tomorrow or the next day, and don’t just thank them for ‘doing a good job,’ thank them for ‘doing a good job on the xyz problem.’ The specific and timely feedback has much more value than the general.