Bob Cooper on Giving Thanks as a Manager

During the holiday season we are reminded to give thanks and extend our best wishes to family, friends, and colleagues.  It’s a time to step back and reflect upon the accomplishments achieved in collaboration with your team, and feel a sense of gratitude for what you have.

Do you take the time to acknowledge the contributions of others? Do you have a full appreciation for the importance of giving praise?

Thanksgiving Dinner


Many years ago I had an eye opening meeting with an engineering director named Pete.  The purpose of the meeting was to update Pete on the progress of my work with several members of his team.  I facilitated a process improvement initiative that ended up saving the company over one hundred thousand dollars. In spite of this outcome, the group had very low morale. One day I stopped one of our meetings and asked the team why they were so upset. They said “Pete doesn’t value us.” I asked “Why do you feel this way?” Their response was “He never shows appreciation for our work.”  I shared this story with Pete in an attempt to provide him with a valuable insight.  His response was “I don’t need to tell them how much I value them, they are engineers and should know how well they are doing.”  I said “Pete, everyone wants to be appreciated.  It’s not based on one’s position or degree. You need to express to your team how much you value them.”

To this day, I can still see Pete struggling to understand the importance of giving thanks.

The following are a few suggestions for leaders regarding expressing thanks:

  1.  Make it a priority to catch people doing things right, and let them know the importance of their work.  For example, if you see a staff member going the extra mile to serve a customer, express thanks. If you see a member of your team assisting a colleague with a difficult issue, give thanks.
  2. As you walk around ask others for feedback.  Ask staff to let you know about co-workers either within your department or from another section who did something special for them or a customer.  Take the time to let the individual deserving of the praise know how grateful you are for their efforts. It’s important to celebrate successes.
  3. In staff meetings, acknowledge the team for achieving certain goals, and praise examples of excellence.  Give each team member the opportunity to express thanks to a colleague for any support provided that they appreciate. This builds a sense of team and keeps the meeting positive.
  4. Thank a staff member who brings a mistake to you, and accepts full accountability for the error, and has a plan to fix the problem.  You might be thinking – why should I praise someone who is bringing me a mistake? If you criticize mistakes, you create a fear based environment, and thus, people might look to cover up the mistake. Of course, you are not praising a mistake, but rather acknowledging the individuals integrity.
  5. Engage staff in brainstorming ideas to improve departmental performance, and give thanks for their input.  You are encouraging creativity and innovation, and must not criticize an idea.  After the brainstorming is completed, you can take the time to engage the team in clarifying and prioritizing ideas.  What’s important to remember as a leader is this – if you judge every idea as either “good” or “bad”, how do you think the person who offered a “bad” idea is going to feel?  Every idea needs to be given fair consideration with an objective assessment relative to its potential impact on achieving a positive outcome.

What do you believe is more important – a good strategy or a highly engaged and motivated group of people? They are both very important. However, if you and your competitors have similar strategies, the organization that has done a better job of engaging both the hearts and minds of its employees will always win. Highly engaged and motivated employees will assist you to develop sound strategies, and help to revise strategies as required to maintain a competitive advantage. They will want to do everything possible to help you win.

One of your most important jobs is to let your team know how much you value them. They want to know you care.  They want to know that you do not take them for granted.  They want to know that you see them as unique individuals with unique talents. They want to know that you see their potential, and will do everything possible to assist them to reach their full potential.

Great leaders know that their employees are, and always will be, their most important asset. They want to know that you care about their careers and will serve as a trusted mentor focusing on their success.

I have emphasized this in many previous tips – you must serve your staff. If you serve them well, they will produce outstanding results. You help to remove barriers and provide the tools needed for success.

I encourage you throughout this holiday season and into the future to take the time to let your staff know how much you value them.

I have one more thing to add.  What makes this all work is not just giving praise, but really meaning it. If you fake it, you can cause more damage. When others know you really mean it – you will have loyal followers prepared to leave your competition in the dust.

RL Cooper Associates’ book Heart and Soul in the Boardroom outlines suggestions for leaders to develop highly respectful and ethical work cultures and is available in the Manage My Practice Store. For additional information about their services, please visit www.rlcooperassoc.com.

Bob Cooper, President
RL Cooper Associates
(845) 639-1741
Innovations in Organizational Management

Bob Cooper Asks: Did You Watch the Presidential Debates Looking for Authentic Communication?

Authentic CommunicationWe recently had the opportunity to observe three Presidential debates. Undecided voters watched the responses from both President Obama and Governor Romney to determine who they would like to vote for.  Some people were interested in learning more about each candidate’s policies on important issues. Others observed the poise shown when faced with the tough questions.  In the final analysis, most individuals want to vote for someone they believe in.I  In the final analysis, most individuals want to vote for someone they believe in. They want to develop a sense of trust. They want to believe.

In business, others will only “want” to follow if they believe that you truly have their best interests at heart.  They want to know that you are moving the organization in the right direction. They wish to have the opportunity to be part of the solution. It’s up to you to convince them that they should believe in the message, and most important – they must believe in you.

The following are a few suggestions to communicate with authenticity:

1) Speak From Your Heart – If you only communicate on an intellectual level (for example – give lots of statistics, show many slides, etc.) you have missed the point. You must show passion for your message, and let everyone know that this comes from your core beliefs and values.  If you are scripted and robotic, others will not believe the message. You must be genuine. You must be real.

2) Focus On Others – Being seen as authentic involves having others recognize that you understand their pain.  You understand their passions.  You understand their wants and needs.  You will connect with others when they know that you care about them.  If they don’t believe you, the message will get lost.  In this Presidential election, one key issue is the unemployment rate which has been over 8% for a long time.  From a leadership perspective, the communication can’t simply be about whose policies will bring that rate down.  Part of the assessment being made by the American people is who do they believe really cares enough to make this happen – who understands and really cares about their pain.

3) Demonstrate Consistency – Not everyone will agree with every decision you make.  They will evaluate you relative to how consistent you are in your decision making process.  Do you communicate one message to one audience and another message to others?  Do you change your message to get buy-in, only to have your track record appear inconsistent? As author Tom Peters says – “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.”

4) Be On Purpose – Do you know your purpose? Your purpose goes beyond just the achievement of specific business metrics.  It has more to do with your legacy. It involves the impact you have had on others.  A big part of authentic communication involves having other people understand your purpose, and know that it involves their well being.  In evaluating who we want to be President – some people are interested in each candidate’s motive.  Why do they want to be President? Is it for the power and prestige, or is it to make our lives better?  People do not want to follow others whose focus involves only their self interest (and believe me, most people can recognize the truth). They want to know that you are committed to making the world (or your organization) a better place for all. They want to know that they are included in the process, and that their voice matters.

5) Exhibit Confidence – Not only must you communicate with self-confidence and conviction, you must show confidence in others.  People want to know that you believe in them.  They want your communication to involve them.  They want you to capture their hearts.

Here’s a simple test that I would like you to think about.  If I were to ask each member of your team individually – would they like to go to lunch with you, how would they answer? If they were to say no, why not? If they believe in you, know that you care about them, why would they say no? I have often heard commentators on television discuss that some people ask the same question when deciding who to vote for President.  So, why do you think this is important? If someone can’t stand to go to lunch with you (or the President), are they really listening to the message? Authentic communication often takes place over a cup of coffee, where it’s just the two of you.

Great leaders know that authentic communication is felt in the heart, and everyone knows that they care.  They know that you have earned the right to be heard, not because of your title, but because of the depth of your character. If you communicate with integrity and authenticity, and let everyone know that their needs matter most – you will have loyal followers. If not, you might just lose the election.

RL Cooper Associates’ book Heart and Soul in the Boardroom outlines suggestions for leaders to develop highly respectful and ethical work cultures and is available in the Manage My Practice Store. For additional information about their services, please visit www.rlcooperassoc.com.

Bob Cooper, President
RL Cooper Associates
(845) 639-1741
Innovations in Organizational Management