Let’s face it. As a leader you’re most likely the catalyst in your respective organization.
You get the initiative rolling, the dream envisioned, and the communication flowing. You help the systems get developed, the revenues stream in, and the company be promoted.
The technical, or hard, skills of leadership demand a lot from you. But when the intersection of our heart and energy come together, what does that demand of your people and your teams?
In other words, are we a vortex for our organization, or are we a drain within it?
If you’re a vortex, you are the type of leader that funnels energy and focuses it upward, moving everything around you along, and catapulting forward the goals, values, and mission of your company. People will naturally be lifted up by your example, and be sucked along with the focus you’ve generated because of the irresistible lure of what you’re promoting.
In fact, many times you’ll propel others to skills and achievements beyond where you are because you’ve given them a charge of vision that they spin off, becoming vortexes of their own.
Unlike a tornado, which leaves destruction in its wake, a vortex will increase the energy and intensity of their teams with a positive charge and direction that will carry the momentum of vision, even when those natural lulls in our leadership occur.
A vortex can be a very influential power within your company, but so can a drain.
If you’re a drain, you suck the life out of your people and your organization. By just sitting there and creating a negative environment, you will drag others down, turn the focus inward and downward, and never move anything beyond your level.
The purpose of a drain is simple – to be a conduit for waste. Drains waste time, resources, and talent. A person that is a leadership “drain” takes everything in its reach and gives nothing in return.
Our energy can pull everything down, or propel everything forward. Drains are the path of least resistance. True leadership stays away from the easy path. Let’s each determine to be a vortex in our organization.
It’s a wonderful privilege to honor your people through the various Employee Appreciation Days and Weeks.
Whether it’s Nurses Appreciation Week, Administrative Professionals Day, Maintenance Appreciation Week, Customer Service Appreciation Week or any of the other recognized weeks, they give a tremendous opportunity to deepen the level of engagement in your organization.
And yet many, many organizations, and particularly the leaders of those teams or organizations, display a shameful treatment of their employees that reveal to all of their people how they truly value them.
Consider some of these actual examples that leaders executed to show “appreciation” for their people:
- Ice cream sandwiches. (Yes, that was it! That was all they received!)
- Spotify gift cards – for new accounts only. Most of the employees had existing or shared accounts and ended up re-gifting these.
- The Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts gift card with just enough on it for a free coffee, not even a Venti or a Latte. (This happens more often that you realize)
- Leftover food from first and second shifts. (We appreciate the people on third shift but don’t want to stay up late to make that extra effort for them)
- Company t-shirts, mugs or anything else that praises the company and not the employee.
- Cheap nail clippers, name badge holders, pens, hats that no one will wear, and so on (you get the picture)
- Holiday hams, but nothing for vegetarian employees
- Letting budget be an excuse for not doing anything special (“That’s all we have budgeted for the week”)
These very examples (and many, many more) are just some of the reasons why employee engagement scores low in most organizations.
Great leaders know that while appreciating your team is an every day, purposeful event, when it’s time to focus such as the various appreciation weeks, going above and beyond will go a long way in keeping your culture intact.
If you want to make your people truly feel APPRECIATED keep these following principles in mind:
- So something different each day and every day throughout the week. Food one day, cards the next, auction off some gifts another day … be creative. Mix it up day to day and year to year.
- Have all the leaders spend whatever time is needed to execute and host and serve. (One year our leadership team spend all night making truffles and bagging them for the staff)
- Be available at all times to personally serve and thank your people. If that means giving up sleep for 3rd shift employees, or coming in on weekends and nights, then that is what you need to do. Nothing is more impressive than when a staff member sees their leader traveling to the remote facility, showing up at 1:00am, or hopping in their truck or loading dock to meet them personally.
- Don’t make a fool of yourself. Long speeches, drinking, or being inappropriate with your humor will do more harm than good.
- Careful of making recognition fun that doesn’t connect. Watch your people for their reaction and change course as needed. Get employee feedback throughout the year for what they want.
- Know your audience. If you give gifts that no one wants or can use (such as the holiday ham to the vegetarian), or show appreciation that misses the mark (such as humor or fun events that people think are boring or in poor taste, this can backfire on you. Study and know your people throughout the year to find what the culture of the team will appreciate.
- Be there. Don’t schedule vacations, seminars, or board meetings during this time. They want to see you. If at all possible ride with them, work alongside them, or find a means to connect during their work week to understand them better as not just employees but as PEOPLE.
- Spare no expense. That doesn’t mean to be unwise in your stewardship of company finances, but to be cheap (or frugal or however you justify it) will only make the employees feel cheap and undervalued. So many companies skimp on training and other initiatives for their people, that you will make a huge impact in letting them know the company and its leaders spent decent money on them.
Engagement and retaining talent starts with appreciation. Not only during a given week, but in every day, make your people know that they are appreciated in the way that THEY, not you, want.
Does your company go chasing rabbits every now and then?
Chasing rabbits is when any thought or action disrupts what is relevant and takes people off tangent of the current course.
For example, an email can cause a ripple effect through a department when people jump to conclusions or immediately respond to the “urgency” of the subject or discussion, causing people minutes to hours of disrupted work.
When a company chases a rabbit without intent, such as the above example, it can create unintended consequences in stopping the flow of work. But if done intentionally, it has far more damaging effects.
I was involved in the leadership team of an organization that met weekly. The chief executive would strategically take a conversation off course by throwing out a thought that the rest of the team would pounce on and discuss quite fervently. We soon discovered that when certain issues were brought up that could shed light on some of their improprieties, they would throw us off and down a rabbit trail in hopes that we’d get distracted. It worked for a time but when it finally caught up to them, we had gone far off our mission and realized the wasted time and resources that were affected by their behavior.
It’s easy to go down a rabbit trail – knee-jerk responses, emotional ploys, fear, anger, bringing others in that bog down the disruption, and playing off assumptions and urgencies that don’t exist.
In order to prevent your team from going down the rabbit trail, ensure your team:
- Knows what is mission critical
- Communicates consistent priorities and never shuffles them
- Keeps the vision clear and prominent
- Pauses to consider the tyranny of the urgent versus the need of the important
- Stops to think before following on feelings
A team that has enough people that is grounded in the main tenets of their culture will protect themselves from both intentional and unintentional rabbit trails that come their way.