In this fast-paced world, providing positive employee feedback is more important than ever.
Two things captured my immediate attention about that email at 7:00 on a Friday morning. The first was the subject line, which simply read, “You!” The second was that the email was from my CEO who wrote:
Your excellent presentation at yesterday’s employee meeting is yet another example of the very positive contributions you are making. For only being with the company a few short months, the positive impact you’re making is evident on so many fronts.
Throughout this week I’ve heard numerous comments on the quality improvement in our marketing department along with comments on the excellent support many are receiving.
Glad you’re here!
From the subject to the closing, this leader was focused on talking with me, and I felt it. My face still turns pink with pleasure when I read these words. It’s the nicest email I ever received from an executive.
I’d already been committed to working hard for this new company, but those few good words went a long way toward making me feel that I was held in the highest value and that I belonged. This CEO was one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with. Every employee in the company loved him because he genuinely cared what we thought, and he not only listened to our ideas–he acted on them.
The Greatest Gift
Leaders are busier than ever these days. It can be easy to forget to recognize employees or to think we are too busy to just stop by and sincerely say, “Hi, how’s it going,” close our lips, and listen. That can be the best gift of all—to just listen to the employees who report to us. To try to understand beyond our own narrow perspectives.
6 Ways to Connect with Direct Reports
Connecting with employees is about so much more than a rewards program. Most organizations have rewards programs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that unless communication happens on a regular basis and thanks are offered sincerely and in a way that’s meaningful to employees, the rewards program doesn’t matter. A program will not make one bit of difference to how employees feel about working at a company or for a particular leader. But sincere, timely communication can make all the difference. Always has. Always will.
Here are a few ways some excellent leaders I’ve known chose to communicate to their direct reports:
- A daily habit: One leader parked at the opposite side of the building from his office in a Midwest Manufacturing company. Every morning and every evening he would stroll through the entire plant, stopping for a few minutes here and another few minutes there, just saying hello, speaking to people by name, asking them how things were going. He meant every word he said. He also picked up a lot from employees who were the experts about how to improve and grow the business.
- Post-it® Notes and a bulletin board: A manager at a high tech company used post-it notes in the coffee room to publically praise and thank employees for a job well-done or a milestone reached. His informal and yet heart-felt messages landed with his direct reports in ways that made them feel truly appreciated. In addition, because the company was high tech, the old bulletin board method of communicating was special.
- Lunch with employees: I’m not talking about the formal “lunches with leaders.” You know the ones I mean, where a rotating group is invited in to chat and chew with the head of the organization and spill their guts about how they feel. Well, we all know how well that works. What I’m talking about here, is when a leader chooses to go into the cafeteria and sit down at a table with a group of employees and just be part of the group. Now, it takes a few times, I’ll admit, before people are comfortable. I’ve had leaders tell me that they just don’t know what to say. Fact is? They don’t have to say much, and that’s the point. This technique works only when the leader asks permission to join a group, and when she is willing to share and listen. No need during these informal lunches to make any promises. It’s just lunch.
- MBWA: We’ve all heard the old phrase, “management by walking around,” to the point where it’s become a cliché, unfortunately. But one of my favorite first-line leaders was from Kentucky, and he used to call it “management by wandering around” or when things were tough, “meandering through a mugwamp.” He made a point of wandering and meandering on a frequent basis. This technique works well when it’s sincerely done. In fact, just last week, I got a call from someone I know very well. She’d been really worried about a new vice president who was coming in to take over her group in a major financial organization. As it turned out, this new leader made a fantastic impression with her new staff, though, because she listened with genuine interest, sharing bits about her own life and value system, and then she listened some more. The person who called me had more energy and excitement about her job than I’d heard from her in years.
- Special occasions: Another of my favorite leaders created a PowerPoint slide show about all the employees in her department, set it to music, and called a special recognition meeting. Some of her direct reports were shy about being recognized individually, and so she chose to thank all of them at the same time by using a variety of formal and informal photos—current and past. I heard the laughter that day erupting from the conference room as words of praise and accomplishment accompanied these fun photos. People talked about that slide show for a long time and about how it made them feel.
- A hand-written note on a project: A leader in a human resources department wrote a note on a hot-off-the-press employee communication. Her note read, “What a captivating new format. This is brilliant! Thank you for your hard work.” I know for a fact that the people she sent it to still have that document with her scrawled thank you written across it. In our highly digital world, a hand-written note is a novelty.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time to say thank you, I care about you and the work you’re doing. But, it can make a huge difference in the level of connection you achieve.
How do you recognize your direct reports?