Valentine’s Day is the day to express your love and appreciation of those who are precious to you. When you are a manager or executive, your employees ought to be precious to you, or perhaps you have the wrong people on the bus. Any manager is only as good as her employees. And, although a manager can best show appreciation on a continuous basis, the season of love is a great time to talk about how to “love on” your employees.
Here are five ways to show love and appreciation of your employees and team members:
1. Set standards and hold your team members accountable to them. If you don’t set high performance standards for your team, even the outstanding employees may not sustain exemplary behavior for long. People want to do a good job for you, but if the manager tolerates slackers, eventually the good performers give up trying to excel. Your employees with think,“What’s the use of working hard if our manager allows others to skate by?” To counteract this, set performance standards that are high but achievable. Measure what matters. Set goals on results such as closed deals, customer satisfaction or quality. And monitor activities, such as sales calls, service calls and quality inspections. Give everyone at least one performance metric to achieve.
2. Praise in public – quickly. People love to be recognized for their achievements. Publicly recognize employees who go the extra mile, exemplify the company’s core values, or provide exceptional service or quality to customers. Make your praise specific and timely – as soon as possible, call out and praise a positive behavior or action by citing specific actions. You might say, “Susan, the way you handled that customer was awesome. You didn’t lose your temper even though she was yelling at you, and you were able to provide a terrific solution to her problem. Well done! I appreciate how you are living our value of providing excellent customer service.”
3. Criticize in private – slowly. It is never, ever advisable to publically humiliate an employee or team member. If you need to correct an employee’s action, first wait until you are calm and have control of any anger you might feel. This might mean you wait a day to cool down and sleep on your thoughts. It’s guaranteed that you’ll handle the correction better if you do it when you are not emotionally hijacked. (There are exceptions to this rule, as when an employee is doing something dangerous that must be stopped immediately.) When delivering a correction, focus on the behavior not the person. Describe the behavior as if you were a video camera – recount only the observable facts. Then share how it affected you and the negative consequences of the behavior. “I heard you yell and make agitated gestures toward your co-worker yesterday. I was deeply troubled by that and disappointed to see you act in that manner. Clearly, that is not what I expect of my team. Can we talk about what you might do in a similar situation in the future?”
4. Use all means at your disposal to show employees you care. Take a daily walk around your department or company to talk to people. Ask them about their families and hobbies. If you need to, take notes so you can remember what people share with you. Send a letter to an employee’s family to let them know what a great job he or she is doing and don’t forget to be specific in your praise. Call employees when they are sick. Send flowers when someone is hospitalized or when there is a death in the family. Celebrate team member’s birthdays. Encourage employees to share news of their family or personal accomplishments. Invite family members to the office once or twice a year – like for an office holiday program or a “bring your child to work” day. Be generous when possible. Here’s a great example of generosity: A CEO recently told me of an employee who asked him to pay for her gym membership in one annual payment, despite the company’s policy of paying monthly. Graciously he agreed, explaining, “It meant so much to her, and so little to the company.”
5. Create programs for your team members to “love on” other team members. Many of my customers have started a peer recognition program that encourages team members to identify the positive behaviors of others on the team. Go one step further and ask the recognizer to identify the core value that the positive behavior exemplifies. Design a form that includes the recipient of the recognition, the giver of the recognition, date, description of the positive behavior and the core value it demonstrates. Then at the end of a month or quarter, read all the recognition forms to the team, put the forms in a fishbowl and have a raffle or drawing for a small gift for a randomly selected winner.
What’s in it for you, the executive or manager, of showing all this love? In a phrase, your payoff is the retention of your best people. Research shows that people join companies but leave managers, and that, above all else, employees value managers who care about them. In this economy, holding onto your top performers will not only save you money but can save the company.
This Valentine’s Day, show your team some love.
From the Desk of