The corporate world thrives in an environment of continuous improvement – year over year results need to increase and productivity must grow. We need to be leaner, faster and make better decisions than we made last year but, more importantly, far better than our competition. Results are calculated, goals are achieved and then we move on to the next day to start the improvement process all over again. This environment of constant motion elevates our competitive spirits, inspiring us to rise to the challenge and compelling us to overcome any obstacles that stand in our way. To our detriment though, at times we forget that without an engaged workforce, our businesses’ culture will not evolve to support the demands of ever increasing improvements. But lucky for you, there are two words that will ensure your success: Thank You.
Pretty simple words; in fact most of us use these multiple times during the day when someone hands us a cup of coffee, a door gets opened, the report asked for is on our desk and so on. In fact, this phrase is used so often as a way to interact with strangers or just to be polite that it tends to lose its value. Example: When was the last time someone you respect and hold in high regards has come to you, looked you in the eye, shook your hand and said ‘thanks for all the work that you have done and the sacrifices you have made’? Unfortunately, history has shown me that this happens far too infrequently and it exposes a major weakness in today’s leaders. This shortfall reflects a leader’s lack of understanding as to how this missing interaction defines them as a person and the culture they are supporting.
Ok, now some of you are thinking that no one has ever thanked you and you are just fine or, on the flip side, you really don’t need any thanks, you just need people to get out of your way so you can get it done. Well that is a nice thought and it brings me back to leadership competencies of the 60’s; I believe they used to call it the “John Wayne Syndrome”. Just slap the dust off of your pants, get right back in the saddle and ride on!! But if you remember, the Duke was usually riding off into the sunset by himself. Now if you are retiring tomorrow, that attitude may work just fine for you. But if you’ve got a few more years left in that saddle, you might want to rethink your philosophy around giving thanks.
You see, when you take the time to have a serious conversation with someone about their work and then you thank them for that work, you are sending two messages:
1) They have created value. Every day I have conversations with managers who ask themselves if they’ve really made a difference or not. At times, we are our own worst enemy as we judge the work we do. Having confirmation of value from a leader allows the manager to reenergize the work they are doing and improves their own personal value which makes them a better team player and employee.
2) You recognized the value. This one gets lost on most of the leaders that I have this conversation with. You see, people assume that you have a lot on your mind and when you are cruising at 30,000 feet you don’t have time for the little stuff. Yes, you give good speeches and you talk about strategy and the culture and the importance that people have in your organization but you live in a different world. The gap between your world and the world of your employees can easily be bridged the moment you walk into their office and look them in the eye. They recognize that you do notice them and therefore their perception of you as a leader changes immediately. This one action has a greater impact than all of the other incentive packages you put together because it tells them that they are giving part of their lives to an organization and leader that cares and that will make a difference. Because when we wake up every morning, isn’t that exactly what we want to do?
So if you want to make a difference, get out of your office and give people a reason to do the same.
My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.