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August 2008

The Power of Appreciation!

“The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James   

I found it! For weeks I have been searching for this quote! Not actively, but with the vague memory that there was something ‘out there’ that expressed my business ideals in a single sentence. My sincere thanks to JoAnna Brandi for incorporating it into the wonderful Customer Care Tip which landed in my mail basket today! I thoroughly recommend that you make the link to learn more about JoAnna and read for yourself her extremely thought provoking and inspiring piece “Do you get an A”.

The reason for my delight is that my whole business proposition of valuing people as human assets is premised on the principle that it compels appreciation. Being appreciated is what makes us all feel good about ourselves, which – as I’ve said before – is the root of happiness.

JoAnna makes the statement, “Work should be a place where you can go to have your self-esteem and self-worth grow and flourish.” The fact that this is not the case is patently clear from the lack of employee engagement that I keep on about and which surveys indicate is getting worse rather than better. Too often work is a place where every miniscule thing we do wrong is identified and held against us, while everything we do right gets ignored, not just because it is expected, but because the ingrained idea that people are simply an expense makes it expedient.

Consequently, no matter how much effort is made to try to turn this around, it is impossible because we are fighting the forces of history. It is like a rusty bolt, that doesn’t budge, despite our best efforts to shift it. Valuing people as human assets is the oil that changes this. It creates the mindset that engenders the change of behaviour that will allow us to transform the workplace, and make it a place where people are engaged – simply because they are appreciated and feel good about themselves. It thus becomes somewhere they can use their talents and so a place where they are happy and where it is fun to be.

Martin Luther King said, “Everyone has the power of greatness. Not for fame, but for greatness. Because greatness is determined by service.” And service – as JoAnna so brilliantly explains – is fuelled by appreciation.

What sort of boss are you?

“A bad boss creates a morale crisis.”  Ricardo Semler: The Seven-Day Weekend   

Given the statistics for disengaged employees, there are clearly a phenomenal number of organisations out there that have a morale crisis, which – following this logic - means there are an awful lot of companies out there with bad bosses. Of course you aren’t one of them, are you?

However, a little soul-searching is often good. So just stop to consider the possibility.  What sort of boss are you? If your team or your organisation is suffering from an employee engagement problem could it be that the problem might be with you and not them?   

Now, of course I cannot answer the question on your behalf. Perhaps you might be able to, but your answer might always be challenged. Undoubtedly, the people best placed to tell you are your people, if you are brave enough to ask them. Are you? And if you are, would you be prepared to listen and – more importantly – do something about it? That might even answer the question for you! 

Complimentary Offers

“The greatest compliment ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and listened to my answer.” Henry David Thoreau   

This certainly provides food for thought. How often – and I am as guilty as anyone of this – do we get so absorbed in our own activities and ideas that we don’t actually listen to what other people have to say?

The problem is probably pretty universal, but I suspect occurs more in the workplace than anywhere else. Reliable statistics on the number of good ideas ignored in work situations each day would, I am sure, be mind-boggling.

We all feed off what we perceive other people think of us. Not being listened to thus sends the message that we aren’t valued and diminishes our sense of self-worth. This is passive abuse! Bad though that is, the consequences are worse, for people whose ideas are routinely ignored or dismissed will soon feel they don’t have anything to contribute and so stop thinking. Even worse, the effect becomes contagious and cultures develop that prevent even newcomers from thinking and speaking. Life then reflects the experiment where monkeys are sprayed with cold water every time one of their number attempts to climb to reach a banana. Not only do all the others attack it to stop it, but they continue to do so, even after all the monkeys have been individually replaced by monkeys that have not been subjected to this treatment.

Could the lack of employee engagement in the workplace that presents such a challenge to most organisations today, be the consequence of such attitudes?

Thoreau certainly suggests it could. We all know that a genuine compliment makes us feel good. And ultimately, feeling good about ourselves is the primary determinant of happiness. And a key factor in feeling good about ourselves is enjoying what we do. Thus happy people are people who enjoy whatever they do. So poor employee engagement statistics clearly reveal that the majority are unhappy in their work! 

That may be stating the obvious, yet Thoreau’s statement also implies the solution, and – because compliments are complimentary – it is free! A sincere compliment is actually a gift, and a pretty valuable one, because it adds to the speaker’s sense of self-worth. We all know people who have turned down more lucrative positions because they are happy where they are. Invariably this is because they either feel appreciated or – its flip side – that they are ‘making a difference.’ They stay because their role gives them a sense of worth that they know they are unlikely to get elsewhere.

So perhaps reducing employee turnover and winning employee engagement isn’t as difficult as we think. It may simply entail listening more and so conveying the message you recognise people’s value. If you see the good in them they will deliver the goods!

How much more successful we would all be if we offered this compliment more! 

Being Better

“Business starts and stops with one thing – the Customer!” 

There aren’t many in the business world who would disagree with that. Or with the follow up words of the recent newsletter that said that this means:
• You need to be better at listening to customers.
• You need to be better at understanding their wants and needs.
• You need to be better at aligning your offering and value proposition.
• You need to be better at building rapport.
• You need to be better at keeping your promises.
• You need to be better at making them feel special.
• You need to be better at anticipating their future needs and market trends.

One word, however, stands out in all this – YOU.

This reminded me of an amusing anecdote. My nephew was asked by his grandmother, “How do you like your new car?”  With a two year old’s gravity, he replied, “No Granny, I don’t have a new car. Only Daddy does!”

As my nephew still had to learn, one of the quirks of English is that the same word denotes both singular and plural, something even adults sometimes fail to appreciate, particularly when referring to organisations which, although a collection of people, actually have their own legal identity. Thus it is worth asking here, who is the ‘you’ being referred to?

Of course it is a generic you, used to denote whichever organisation the manager audience happens to belong to. But it is much broader than that. It could be personal, underscoring the basic lesson that anyone can improve their situation, by “being better.” One could add any one of a thousand statements and it would still be applicable to someone. However, there is an important corporate lesson here too, because neither the persona of the organisation nor the individual manager-reader is capable of single-handedly meeting any of these requirements. Thus in practice the ‘you’ actually refers to every single person in the organisation.

Your customers’ experience depends on the way people interact in any given situation. It may thus well be different in every single instance. So if you want to ensure a consistently good customer experience, where the odds are stacked in your favour to the extent that you can count on your customer service being better most times, then you have to ensure that you have responsive people who are talented, trained and motivated to deliver consistently.

Being better is therefore a people thing. It relies on having people who are happy, fulfilled and motivated; who consider their business colleagues as team-mates and who are thus sufficiently aligned and aware to make a difference.

Is this the case in your organisation? If not, now, with all the talk of possible recession, is precisely the time to redress this!