Six Best Practices for Recognizing Employees in the New Year

John Hester / December 29, 2014

Thank You In Different Languages

“Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment.” ~Bill Walsh

I frequently ask participants in my workshops: “How many of you are getting too much praise?” I generally get a chuckle but rarely a raised hand. Yet time and time again, employees report that sincere, meaningful praise is a significant motivator to perform and engage at work.

A recent survey by TINYpulse asked over 200,000 employees across more than 500 organizations the question: “What motivates you to excel and go the extra mile at your organization?” The third highest response was “feeling encouraged and recognized.” Just in case you were wondering, number one was “camaraderie, peer motivation,” and number two was “intrinsic desire to do a good job.”

Research by Bersin and Associates found that employee engagement, productivity, and customer service are 14% better in organizations where regular recognition occurs. However, only 17% of the employees who participated in their study indicated that their organizational culture strongly supports recognition. Over 70% of the respondents indicated that they are only recognized once a year (a service award) or not at all. What a sad commentary on many work environments.

YES, praise and recognition are important to each of us and clearly impacts our engagement and performance. However, the recognition needs to be done in the right way. Here are six best practices for recognizing employees:

  • Recognize people for specific behavior and results. Service awards for just showing up do not impact engagement or performance in any meaningful way. Stay away from comments like “great job today” or “good work” and be more specific—what did a person do specifically and what was the impact.
  • Tailor the recognition to the individual. Know your people. Some of us (me included) love public praise. Others prefer it to be done in private. One person may want regular on-going praise during a project where another team member would find that annoying and only wants the praise at the end.
  • Give the recognition as close to the event as possible. Don’t save the praise for a meeting or performance review. Take the time to walk around and look for opportunities to catch employees doing something right and give the praise in the moment.
  • Encourage peers to recognize each other. Employees report that peer recognition is more impactful than recognition from a manager because a peer is closer to the work and it’s not their “job.” NOTE: Managers still need to give regular praise also.
  • Share success stories. Use team, department, or company meetings to highlight individual and team success. Share these on the organizational bulletin board or intranet.
  • Link recognition to your company values or goals. For example, at Blanchard, we nominate our peers for annual awards that link to our core values.

As the year comes to a close, I encourage you to take the time to send a note of gratitude and praise, to recognize a staff member, colleague, or even a boss for a specific behavior or accomplishment. Then let’s start the New Year with a renewed desire to catch people doing good things!

“Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” ~ Sam Walton

My top 10 quotes on failure: Richard Branson

Every person, and especially every entrepreneur, should embrace failure with open arms. It is only through failure that we learn. Many of the world’s finest minds have learned this the hard way – here are some my favourite quotes on the importance of failure, and the road to success.
10. When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel – Eloise Ristad

9. Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable – Coco Chanel

8. The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one – Elbert Hubbard

7. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly – Robert F. Kennedy

6. Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm – Winston Churchill

5. One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again – Henry Ford

4. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success – Dale Carnegie

2. I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed – Michael Jordan

1. I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work – Thomas A. Edison



Follow Your Conscience – 13 Ways to Build Trust & Credibility

Posted on December 7, 2014 by Randy Conley
Trust and credibility are cornerstones of successful leadership. You can be the smartest, most technically capable person in your field, but if you don’t have credibility with your team and earn their trust, you’ll never reach your leadership potential.

In his newest book, Follow Your Conscience, Frank Sonnenberg shares great wisdom and practical advice on how to lead and live with character and values. I’ve been connected with Frank via social media for a few years now and we collaborate together in The Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts. Frank’s work is a beacon of light in a dark world that doesn’t place much value on the moral component of leadership.

Frank’s book includes a section on how to build trust and credibility. He lists 55 excellent strategies and I’ve highlighted 13 of my favorites:

  • Your reputation is their first impression.
  • Show people you care about their needs.
  • A promise should be as binding as a contract.
  • Follow through on every commitment you make.
  • Be straight with people. Tell it like it is.
  • Always tell the truth or the truth will tell on you.
  • Surround yourself with people who have a high degree of integrity.
  • Your actions “off-stage” (e.g., at an office party or on Facebook) impact your trust and credibility.
  • Your actions must match your words.
  • Admit when you’re wrong.
  • Words spoken in confidence are words spoken in trust.
  • Learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
  • It’s not only what you bring to the table but how you serve it.

As Frank says, moral character is the DNA of success and happiness. If you’re looking for ways to develop your character, build trust, have better relationships, and chart a path for personal success, Follow Your Conscience is an excellent starting point.

Entrepreneurship: five macho myths debunked

Entrepreneur adviser and author Linda Rottenberg explains which rules you should break when starting a business
Wednesday 29 October 2014

When I started helping entrepreneurs 20 years ago, few people used the word entrepreneur. Today, everyone wants to be entrepreneurial, whether you’re a retiree starting a B&B, a manager in a FTSE 100 company, or a working parent improving your neighbourhood. Even Mattel has an entrepreneur Barbie.

Everyone has a dream, but most people are either too afraid to get going or get started and then get stuck. I help dreamers get unstuck. In two decades I’ve mentored 1,000 entrepreneurs, who this year will generate more than $7bn in revenues. In my new book, Crazy Is a Compliment, I’ve put together a roadmap to help.

One problem: entrepreneurship, like business in general, is plagued by stereotypes from the old boys’ network. Here is the truth behind five macho myths.

1. You don’t need a hoodie to be an entrepreneur
Macho myth: entrepreneurship is only for young boys in hoodies
Mary Jo Cook and Suzanne Sengelmann were two working mothers at risk-averse Clorox, when they heard from fellow parents that they wanted eco-friendly cleaners. The two began a stealth project in their kitchen and eventually launched a successful green product line. All the hype around Silicon Valley has left a false impression: You don’t need to be young, male or wear a hoodie to be an entrepreneur. The fastest-growing groups starting businesses are women and baby boomers over 55. Even if you work inside a company you need the entrepreneurial skillset to get ahead. These days everyone needs to take some risk or risk being left behind.

2. Crazy is a compliment
Macho myth: don’t rock the boat
If you plan to try something new, you should expect to be called nuts. You can’t rock the boat without being told you’re off your rocker. Henry Ford was called “crazy Henry”, Jack Ma, who recently took Alibaba public, was called “crazy Jack”. That also goes for those making change inside companies, like the team at Microsoft behind Xbox, which colleagues dismissed as “coffin box.” The biggest barriers to change are not financial, they’re psychological. You have to give yourself permission to be contrarian, to zig when everyone else zags. I was called “la Chica Loca” when I launched an organisation for entrepreneurs, so I made it my motto: “Crazy is a compliment.” If you’re not called crazy, then you’re not thinking big enough.

3. Don’t bet the farm
Macho myth: the best entrepreneurs go all in
Ray Kroc, the legendary chief executive officer of McDonald’s, captured this macho myth well: “If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business.” Well, boys will be boys, but entrepreneurs will be savvy. Talk to actual entrepreneurs and the story around risk is quite different. Most are risk minimisers, not risk maximisers. Even a maverick such as Richard Branson says the goal is “contained disasters”. Half of the Inc 500 companies were launched with $5,000 or less. Many innovators keep their day jobs until their ideas take off: Sara Blakely of Spanx sold fax machines for two years, and Phil Knight of Nike (the Just Do It! guy) spent nearly a decade doing other people’s taxes. The bottom line: don’t bet the farm; wager a few chickens instead.

4. Be flawsome
Macho myth: always project strength
Leave the marble and the bronze for the Caesars and the Pattons. Today’s leaders need more emotional breadth: less super, more human. I learned this the hard way. For years I tried to model those marbled leaders: touting my organisation’s accomplishments, demonstrating invincibility. But after my husband received a cancer diagnosis when our twin daughters were three, I could no longer pretend. I admited weakness, I asked for help, I even cried in front of my team. And I quickly discovered what researchers have now proven: powerful communicators put people off with their superhuman qualities; powerless ones draw others in with their imperfections and self-awareness. Forget trying to be awesome all the time. Be flawsome.

5. Go big and go home
Macho myth: you cannot integrate work and family
Entrepreneurs tend to be workaholics. I know, because I was one. “Go big or go home!” But that’s a horrible way to live and a worse way to keep talent. I recently gave a talk to senior women at a top Wall Street firm. They were shocked that I mention my daughters in speeches and schedule meetings around ballet recitals. They don’t dare have family photos in their offices for fear they’ll seem disloyal to the firm. These days, bosses that discourage people from making it home for family dinner are likely to see those people walk out the door. Three-quarters of workers – men and women – say flexibility is key. Today’s leaders need to get a life and encourage those around them to do the same. As one of my twin girls told me: “You can be an entrepreneur for a short time, but you’re a mummy forever.”

3 Warning Signs You’re Leading on Autopilot

Posted on November 2, 2014 by Randy Conley
I often find myself driving my car on auto-pilot. No, my car doesn’t actually have autopilot (although Tesla is testing one that does!), but I’ll find myself mentally on autopilot. Since the vast majority of time when I drive I’m traveling the familiar journey to and from work, I’ll sometimes mindlessly start driving the same route even when I’m intending to go somewhere else!

Over the course of my leadership journey there have been times when I’ve found myself leading on autopilot. Using autopilot is a helpful and necessary tool for airplane pilots, but it’s deadly for leaders. Leading on autopilot is equivalent to “mailing it in” – you physically show up to do the job but your heart and mind are elsewhere.

Here are three warning signs you may be leading on autopilot:

1. Your to-do list is filled with low-impact tactical items – I’m not one to make a big difference between leadership and management, but one of the clear differentiators in my mind is that leaders initiate change and managers react to it. If you find your to-do list is filled with low-impact, tactical items that contribute more to the daily operations of the business, then you may be running on autopilot. Your to-do list should be focused on big picture, strategic items that could make significant improvements in your operations.

There is nothing wrong with having tactical items on your to-do list. Every leadership job has a certain element of administrative or operational tasks that must be handled. The key is the amount of time and energy you devote to the tactical versus strategic parts of your role. You can dedicate more time for strategic items by intentionally planning strategic thinking time on your calendar. Block out chunks of time on a regular basis to think and plan for the long-term needs of your business. Spend time talking to your customers, stakeholders, and other leaders in the organization to help you get a broad view of the landscape of your business. Do your best to take control of your calendar and don’t get trapped in firefighting all the urgent issues that cross your desk.

2. You find yourself in reactive mode all the time – Building on the previous point, leaders who run on autopilot often find themselves surprised by changing business conditions. The autopilot leader easily becomes oblivious to changes occurring around him until the nature of the situation reaches a crises point, forcing the leader to snap back to reality. This happens because the leader was content to react to change rather than initiate it. Leaders have the responsibility to survey the landscape and proactively make changes to position their teams to take advantage of changing conditions, not be waylaid by them. If you find that you are constantly reacting to issues raised by customers, other organizational leaders, or even your team members, then you’re probably being too passive as a leader and letting circumstances dictate your actions. Instead, focus on being proactive and trying to shape those situations to your advantage.

3. You get upset when your routine is disturbed – Routine has the potential to be quite good. It can create powerful habits that lead to effectiveness over a long period of time. However, routine equally has the power to be bad. Taken to extreme, routine becomes complacency. Most people prefer some sort of routine, whether minimal or quite elaborate. We’re creatures of habit and it’s a normal part of our makeup. However, we have a problem when we’re more emotionally and mentally invested in preserving our routine at the expense of adapting our leadership methods to accomplish the goals of our organization. One of the most important competencies for leaders in the 21st century is adaptability. The pace of change continues to accelerate year after year and only adaptable leaders will survive while complacent leaders will be left behind. If you find yourself getting perturbed or exasperated because your routine is being messed with, you may have been running on autopilot too long.

Running on autopilot is great if you’re a pilot, but it’s a bad idea if you’re a leader. Instead, find yourself copilots who can shoulder the burden with you. Leadership doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, an individual sport. Today’s business landscape and organizations are too fast-moving and complex for one person to lead by him/herself. Surround yourself with capable leaders and team members who can fly the plane with you and you’ll find you won’t have any need for leading on autopilot.



Need More Time? Start Coaching Your People

Patricia Overland / December 30, 2014

Challenge In Business: What’s the number one reason that leaders don’t provide more day-to-day coaching for their people? By an overwhelming margin, it’s “I don’t have the time.”

That was the response John, a VP in the high tech industry, gave us when we asked him this question. And from what we could see, he was right. He was overworked and exhausted—because he was doing all the work for his employees! Given the constant deadlines he faced, he still believed this approach was easier than taking the time to coach his direct reports toward better performance.

This is a common problem we coaches face when working with well-meaning managers. They know they can’t keep operating this way, but they can never seem to find the right moment to slow down and put a new plan in place.

For John, it wasn’t until we had him track how much time out of one week he spent either doing the work himself or telling his people what to do and how to do it that he finally decided it was worth it to make time for day-to-day coaching.

That breakthrough led to these three questions John now uses as the basis for his new approach to coaching others to higher levels of performance.

What is getting in your way?
What do you need from me?
What will you do next?
Turns out, asking those three questions and listening to the answers netted John an increase in saved time of more than eighty percent! Now instead of doing the work himself, John is able to quickly identify—in partnership with the direct report—what the challenge is, where the direct report is in terms of competence and commitment to meet that challenge, and what leadership style is required to keep the project moving forward.

Eighty percent time saved. John says it’s the best experiment he’s ever conducted. Now he’s a believer.

How about you? Examine the possibilities. Try something new. Get new results. How much time could you save? This is just one example of the power of coaching—it benefits you as well as the people you lead.

Letters with a 12 year old: Richard Branson

8 January 2015

Not too long ago I received this letter from 12 year old Zach; who I met on Necker over dinner. I had a great time chatting with Zach and his family, and was thrilled to discover he’d followed up on our conversation.
From the young man you sat across from at dinner.

Hello Mr Branson,

I was just writing you this letter because last night I didn’t really get to talk to you about some of the other things I wanted to. I would like to start off by saying thank you for joining us at dinner, I had a wonderful time and my sister did too, even though she wouldn’t admit it – haha. None the less thank you for letting me and my family stay here. I feel like the least I could is say that on behalf of everyone. So some of the things I wanted to talk to you about I feel like are some things that I feel like nobody really thinks to ask you about. Or maybe they do, I don’t know.

The first question I have is what do you think of my generation? Honestly, I feel like most of the kids in my generation aren’t going to contribute to society much. Believe it or not, it’s a trend now to be dumb. I just think it’s sad that these kids who are suppose to lead the world are just wasting themselves and making the load heavier for the rest of us.

My second question is what do you think of pop music from today’s artists? I’m REALLY not a fan of it. It’s just so bland, it’s not really creative and it almost has this weird folky undertones. Personal I’m a fan of metal that could scare the devil himself. Haha. That’s another thing I don’t like about today’s pop culture. If you have any originality at all, or like anything that strays from pop culture, it makes you a freak of nature to everyone else! Isn’t it strange that in a liberation age, people are still scared of being original because they’ll become a social activist.

I was wondering how people treat you usually, like do they treat you like a normal person or like a billionaire? I think I could figure it out but I just wondered because if I gain the wealth and fame that you have, some day, I wouldn’t want the royal treatment. I’d just want to be able to just carry a conversation like you and me did – I know at this point that it probably sounds contradictory, since I’ve written such a long letter. Haha. I guess I’d want people to see me as me, and not my earnings, as few of the people in my party have to you.

I think my last question is do you have any huge regrets? I know for me that for a large portion of my life I was very shy and introverted and I still some what am. I came to the realisation through that I should take nothing for granted because I’m only going to live once. I want to make a mark while I still can like you have. I think it’s awesome all the stuff you do to help the world. I hope when I grow up I can help the world like you have. Who knows, maybe you’ll save the world before I can. Haha. Anyways, once again thank you for letting us come to your island and who knows, maybe one day you’ll visit my island. I don’t expect you to write back, these are just some of thoughts I wanted to share with you. I hope you liked my letter and hope we have the pleasure of talking or even working together someday.



Dear Zach

Thank you for your letter – I loved reading it, and was very interested in what you had to say. You’re a clever young man, with a bright future ahead of you. Your questions really got me thinking…

While I understand your concern about your generation, it’s important to look further than your immediate surroundings to discover the amazing things that millennials are doing for the world. Over the past year I have met so many inspiring young people and written a number of blogs focusing on the wonderful work they are doing. And with forums like TEDxTeen connecting up these incredible youths, I’m happy to say that the future is in safe hands. Don’t be concerned about the perceived laziness of others, instead focus your energy on thinking up ways you can shine, and in turn become a leader who inspires others.

On the subject of today’s music, while it’s not all to my taste, as you get older you begin to accept that things change – and that change moves the world forward. From Mike Oldfield to Peter Gabriel, the true innovators will always shine through. It may no longer be the good old days of rock n roll; however current musicians are doing some outrageously exciting things. Plus, thanks to the internet and music streaming, unsigned artists – who in the past may never have found their voice – are fast growing strong followings based purely off their musical merit. That’s a great thing! Pop may not be to your taste, but there are plenty of metal fans out there, and as you grow older you’ll find a community of people who share your passion.

I would like to think people treat me like anybody else – I certainly try to treat everybody the same whether they are the Queen or a kid I meet in the street. Having said that, I made a conscious choice to make myself the face of Virgin, after my mentor Sir Freddie Laker told me that the only way to get ahead was to be visible. That piece of advice not only influenced my entire approach to business, but also changed my life. There are obvious downsides to being well known, but there are also a huge amount of positives. I have been privileged to meet and work with so many incredibly inspiring individuals; and have been able to lend my voice to an array of great causes and initiatives – spanning climate change, conflict resolution, conservation, and human rights. I believe that those lucky enough to be granted the spotlight should use their public profile as a force for good. If you follow you heart and are strong in your conviction, people will listen to your voice, not just your money.

There aren’t many things I would have done differently; I don’t like to focus on them with regret. I would rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I’d did that’.

Zach, life is yours for the taking, so go out there and grab it with both hands. You are very much an old soul, and very mature for your age, which is brilliant. However, I would add that being young is magical, and you should make sure you take time to play, laugh, make mistakes and make merry, as well as focusing on more serious issues. Thanks for a wonderful dinner; I look forward to receiving my invite to your island one day.



It Only Takes 6 Steps to Change Your Life: John C Maxwell

Don’t get stuck in the same old average routine. Here’s how to start the domino effect of change.


Hope is the foundational principle for all change. People change because they have hope, and if people do not have hope, they will not change. You are responsible for the changes that you make in your life.
The good news? You can change your life if you really want to. You can improve it, make it better. And it all starts with changing the way you think. So are you ready? I am going to walk you through a six-step plan for achieving positive change.
Here’s how you give yourself a little hope:

Step 1: When you change your thinking, you change your beliefs.
Change begins with the mind. Beliefs are nothing more than a byproduct of what you have thought about long enough, something that you have bought into—always remember that. What you believe, what you think, is just a collection of continual thoughts that have formed themselves into a conviction. When you break down the process of thinking into a manageable number of steps, you reduce the perceived risk associated with change.

Step 2: When you change your beliefs, you change your expectations.
Belief is the knowledge that we can do something. It is the inner feeling that what we undertake, we can accomplish. For the most part, all of us have the ability to look at something and know whether we can do it. So in belief there is power… our eyes are opened, our opportunities become plain, our visions become realities. Our beliefs control everything we do. If we believe we can or we believe we cannot, we are correct.

Step 3: When you change your expectations, you change your attitude.
Your expectations are going to determine your attitude. Most people get used to average; they get used to second best. Nelson Boswell said, “The first and most important step toward success is the expectation that we can succeed.”

Step 4: When you change your attitude, you change your behavior.
When our attitude begins to change, when we become involved with something, our behavior begins to change. The reason that we have to make personal changes is that we cannot take our people on a trip that we have not made.

Step 5: When you change your behavior, you change your performance.
Most people would rather live with old problems than new solutions. We would rather be comfortable than correct; we would rather stay in a routine than make changes. Even when we know that the changes are going to be better for us, we often don’t make them because we feel uncomfortable or awkward about making that kind of a change. Until we get courage and get used to living with something that is not comfortable, we cannot get any better.

Step 6: When you change your performance, you change your life.
It is easier to turn failure into success than an excuse into a possibility. A person can fail, turn around and understand their failure to make it a success. But I want to tell you, a person who makes excuses for everything will never truly succeed. Don’t you know some people who just have an excuse for everything? Why they could not, should not, did not, would not, have not, will not. I promise you, when you excuse what you are doing and excuse where you are, and you allow the exceptions, you fail to reach your potential. It is impossible to turn excuses into possibilities.

Characteristics of My Perfect Boss

Posted by Aoife Gorey on Tue, Jan 06, 2015

Some managers inspire and motivate, but many fail miserably to engage their employees. Some run a highly effective team, yet their employees live and work in fear. Some on the other hand, are just absolute disasters and a joke to leaders everywhere. Have you seen the movie Horrible Bosses? From the man-eater to the psycho (and other names that we won’t repeat), the entertainment industry seems to have created the ultimate formula for the “bad boss” character. With millions of books, DVDs, research papers, and solutions in the business world today, why can’t real managers understand how to be more effective?

I may be young-ish (under 30), but I have been working since I was 14 years old. I started in a movie theatre, and worked my way through restaurants, nightclubs, PR firms, and marketing agencies. Needless to say, I have seen a wide variety of bosses, from the micro-manager to the non-existent boss. One statement that I TRULY believe in is that people quit people, not jobs.

The best bosses I have witnessed became great by taking a genuine interest for each and every team member. Not only do they want the company to succeed, but the individual employee as well. Happy employees = hardworking employees! Common sense, no?

Combining my work experience with my current position as a business blogger and marketer, I have been surrounded with many tips on tricks for effective management and leadership skills. I am going to break down my “must-haves” for (what I think is the) perfect boss! Although no one is perfect, you know what I mean! To me, an outstanding and awesome boss will be:

1. A Communicator
This is number one for a reason! Talk to your team; tell them their goals and the goals of the organization. Be transparent! How in the world can you ever expect success if you don’t define what success means to your department and company? This can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, whatever suits your team and task list. Personally, I love weekly meetings, it keeps me tuned in and engaged on what we as a team have to accomplish each week.

Apart from team goals, communicate your employees’ development with them. There is nothing more I love in this world than feedback. My perfect boss will tell me when I’m doing a great job, let me know when I have dropped the ball, and what I need to work on in the future.

2. A Leader
Often, companies promote a top performer because of previous successes, without ever determining or assessing if that person is capable and suited to manage a specific team. True leaders are able to instill trust, provide direction, and delegate responsibility. Just because an employee reached a sales goal of one million last quarter, does not mean that he or she can manage or lead a team. My perfect boss will be a combination of a top performer with the skills and attributes to lead a team.

3. Passionate
I like to think that I am extremely passionate about everything I do, professionally and in my personal life. I’m not saying that I want an over-excited “cheerleading type” boss; my ideal boss will be excited about our mission, what we are trying to accomplish, and will instill this in their team members.

4. A Relationship Builder
Effective managers I have worked with in the past spent a significant amount of time and effort building a relationship with me. Doing this builds trust and loyalty with your employees. It makes employees feel valued, and valued employees work harder. I worked in a top Irish venue as a college student; we loved the managers there and they took great care of us. They offered rewards programs, they taught us new skills, they bought us meals, and always treated us with respect. They always told me they would welcome me back with open arms if I ever needed a job. Because of that, I worked extremely hard for them for six years. Just because you’re not in an office environment does not mean you can forgo basic leadership.

5. A Hard Worker
I strongly believe that no organization can run like a smoothly operated machine unless everyone knows how those moving parts work. A great manager will understand the flow of operations and be willing to do just as much work as their worker bees. I recall my first waitressing experience; a manager took a mop from me and proceeded to clean up after an unfortunate “messy” experience by a sick patron. I asked her what she was doing, she told me, “she would not ask me to do something she would not do herself, especially on my first day.” In that instant, she earned my respect.

I have learned so much from each and every individual that I worked with, the good, bad, and the ugly. Value every experience and utilize these lessons so that you know how to do your job better.

Leaders: Stop Adding Value—Just Listen

Mary Ellen Sailer / January 13, 2015
Blocky PyramidI was talking with a Blanchard® coach the other day about the topic of recognition. She told me about a newly promoted VP she’s working with. He believes there is a need for just-in-time recognition in addition to the formal recognition programs that are in place within his company. I reminded the coach that Ken Blanchard calls that catching people doing things right.

As we continued on the topic, she told me how this leader wants to be very encouraging of other people in his company—and often joins team meetings to hear about the latest ideas, projects, and plans. In his enthusiasm to endorse the thinkers, he told the coach that he always “adds value.”

That’s a potential problem.

What do you think happens when he comes in as an outsider and tries to improve on a team’s decision? Our coach is going to ask, but I’d say it’s a safe guess that when this leader speaks, others stop speaking. It’s pretty hard to disagree with a VP.

While this leader has a great idea to recognize and endorse the good work of others, I’m glad he’s working with a coach to support him in this plan, because even the best intentions can sometimes have the opposite impact. Rather than offering to add value by improving others’ ideas, the real value he could add in these meetings would be to really listen. Here’s why:

Through listening, the VP shows team members he values what they have to say.
This creates a safe environment for team members to speak up and share ideas.
He could model the benefit of asking open-ended questions.
He could share the floor by soliciting input from others around the table.
Active listening will result in higher quality decisions that originate directly from team members.
Adding value is wonderful—but the VP isn’t the only voice of value at the table. By stopping his own reflex to fix or improve and instead truly listen to others, this new VP can generate even greater value—and more opportunities to catch people doing things right!