The best way to get maximize commitment, effort and production from people is to ensure they feel valued.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and respected, but what many organizations fail to realize is that this goes far beyond just the financial implications or an occasional free lunch. These things are expected (after all, no-one is going to work for free) so it takes a few extra steps to get people to go the extra mile.
What Happened in Vegas…(my Sin City anecdote)
Let me tell you a quick story that I’ve kept to myself for 21 years.
In November 1996 I was a young, eager, wide-eyed IT Manager who had moved to Florida from Northern Ireland barely two years earlier. I was working with a Leisure/Hospitality client in Las Vegas and spent the better part of 3 or 4 months on-site focusing on requirements, schedules, servers, installations, training and all that regular stuff that happens on technology projects.
One day during the project I received an envelope containing a handwritten note (shown on the right) from Bob Wengel who was a senior executive in the client’s organization.
In the short letter, he wrote “thank you” and said he would “help in any way” – Wow!
I was quite taken aback because here was a high-ranking individual who had taken the time to;
- Recognize and thank me for my efforts
- Offer to personally help as we moved through the project
This wasn't even my boss or someone in my own organization, but a business acquaintance who understood the value of making another feel valued.
I still have the letter from Bob, as it meant a lot to me then… and still does today.
Why Feeling Valued Matters
When significant people in our lives listen to what we say, appreciate our contributions, offer assistance and reward when appropriate...guess what?
- We Feel Good.
- We Feel Special.
- We Feel Valued.
These feelings directly impact our sense of self-worth and self-esteem, helping to build a positive self-image. This propels us to be productive, happier, healthier, less stressed and (supposedly) live longer.
We have more energy and enthusiasm which helps us work, function and perform to a much higher potential.
If you are into numbers and statistics, a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) a number of years ago found that;
A whopping 93% of employees who feel valued at work said they are motivated to do their best
That same study showed only 33% of those who feel under-valued are motivated.
What’s really cool about helping elevate someone else's self-esteem is that it also makes you feel better.
Sounds like the ultimate workplace win-win doesn't it?
A Healthy Dose of Gratitude Creates a Healthy Attitude
Exhibiting gratitude and appreciation for a job well done shows you are a positive leader. One who would much rather encourage progression, advancement and improvement than dwell and worry unduly on why things weren’t perfect.
Whether it’s a hand-written note, email, announcement at a meeting or the ‘caught being great’ section in a company newsletter, it’s important for every leader to recognize and appreciate the effort of those around them.
But don’t be platitudinous and simply thank everyone with the same, generic message.
Take the time to identify those making a difference, find out how they like to be appreciated/recognized and be sincere in what you say or write.
Oh, and don’t ramble on. That just comes across as your words being the focal point. Simply explain what they did, how they excelled and/or what problem they solved and then thank them for it.
Great Leadership Seeks, Delivers and Champions Support
An engaged workforce is one that purposely seeks to help each other for collaborative success. And leadership can be the catalyst for this to happen regularly.
Leaders need to support the team as a unit, but it is critical to remember that a team is made up of individuals. By taking the time to support each team member you are building their own confidence and self-esteem.
These singular, positive attitude upticks and increases in energy will holistically improve results across the organization.
Additionally, employees feel more confident about helping their colleagues if they know their manager would do the same and that he/she will also jump in to support if needed.
The important thing to remember when an employee needs (or asks) for help is to focus on a solution rather than dwell on any mishaps - Adopt an 'Us Against The Problem' approach.
Phrases like 'how can we' or 'what do you need from me' let the employee know that rather than expect them to work it out, you will work together to get things done.
By the way, it's equally important to know when to back off and sometimes leave employees on their own. Too much interaction may be perceived as micro-managing.
Workplace Relationships; the Game Changer
Relationships (whether at work or in our personal lives) are the key component in keeping people together. But we're not very good at them, are we?
Couples divorce. Teenagers fight with parents. Kids squabble. Friends fall out. Countries go to war.
Let's be honest, all too frequently we suck at relationships.
And when it comes to the workplace, poor relationships are a major source of dysfunction and disengagement. This leads to low morale, time wasting, carelessness and even conflict.
Workplace relationships are key drivers of Employee Engagement and a strong organizational culture... and none is more important than the one between an individual and their boss.
Most people who voluntarily leave an organization do so due to poor working relationships, and most of the time it is with their immediate supervisor. We've all heard the old story that people join companies but leave bosses.
But when a leader (or colleague) actively recognizes and supports the individuals around him/her it builds openness, sincerity and trust.
This propagates through the team and leads to higher levels of efficiency, productivity, service and quality. And who doesn't want that?
Thank-You + Can I Help You = Respect
I reached out to Bob after all these years to let him know I still had the note and wanted to include it in this piece.
He told me he “always believed in writing notes” and that he finds personal communication helps the team build "a feeling of belonging. Of being appreciated. A culture where their workplace feels right and rewarding”
Thanks (and good on ya) Bob……