Leading with Appreciation

strategy-79-hands1_252I’ve been on my own version of a Marine Corps crucible of late.  It’s been a seemingly endless test of physical, mental and emotional strength and, I must admit, it is taking me on one heck of an exciting ride!

If you aren’t familiar with The Crucible,  it takes place over 54-hours and includes food and sleep deprivation and over 45 miles of marching. The entire Crucible event pits teams of recruits against a barrage of day and night events requiring every recruit to work together to solve problems, overcome obstacles and help each other along the way. It is team-building at its’ finest (or worst) and it you can survive it, you come out on the other side a true, solid to the core Marine.

In my world, the march I am on is lasting more than 54 hours and is demanding a lot of my team, their families and many of our associates across the organization. I am seeing some of the best and brightest rise to the occasion; while at the same time watching some who are challenged in their roles fall farther behind. It is exhilarating to see ideas that have been incubating in various departments of the company quickly come to the forefront and we challenge teams to remove the [sometimes] self-imposed rules and give themselves permission to solve for business challenges in a free-form fashion.  All across the firm, new life is being breathed into people, processes and behaviors and the energy it creates is exciting.  Hard work? Yes!  But the results are truly inspiring!

While those who give continue to help forge new paths, reach back to pull a collegeaue forward or give an extra ounce of energy to make sure a deliverable deadline is met, it is so critical to remember to say thank you.  Good leadership demands it and common sense requires it.  It isn’t enough to wait until ‘The Crucible’ is over to show the appreciation.  It has to be delivered along the way, as we complete each obstacle and pass through each major turnstile.  Thanks and appreciation are the fuel that motivates and keeps the team marching on toward the goal.

The two things people want more than sex or money are recognition and praise.  – Mary Kay Ash, Founder Of Mary Kay Cosmetics

A client asked me yesterday about how best to recognize the stellar efforts of several associates who have really shined in their work of late. Gift cards? A weekend away? Cash bonus? All great ideas and surely most welcome. But my response was to take a moment and send a letter. A real, bona-fide letter on corporate letterhead that comes in the mail. Today’s digital society makes letters of recognition a bit of a rarity these days. Emails are nice, but they quickly get filed into the abyss or deleted.

A letter that can be saved for the “atta boy” file and referred to later means something. Your kids and grandkids will appreciate knowing you were recognized long after the money was spent or the trip is forgotten. Knowing someone went to the effort to write, print and send a letter makes it special; it reinforces your extraordinary efforts genuinely appreciated. Yes, it is source of excitement to receive now, as well as encouragement for years to come.

Tough times come in today’s competitive world of business. We have to work constantly to reinvent our business relationships and continually demonstrate the value we create and deliver for our clients. We must make sure that we never lose sight of the efforts of our teams and people — most often our greatest asset — in our efforts to deliver the products and services we do.

Saying thank you and showing appreciation for the big and small things our associates do is critical to the quality of experiences we create for our customers. Even when we’re telling ourselves it is “just their job” we can never lose sight of the heart and passion they are putting into it.  We need to encourage it, motivate it, celebrate it and let them know it is appreciated. For without it, we are nothing.

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