Six Tips For Team-Building And Employee Motivation

All things grow with love.

Joan Bramsch wanted to teach her elementary students a concrete lesson on love. So she showed the children two small ivy plants, each planted in identical containers. She said they would give the plants the same amount of water and light, but not the same amount of attention. They were going to see what would happen.

One plant was placed in the kitchen away from their attention. The other one would be in the classroom with them. Every day they would tell their classroom plant how much they loved it and how beautiful it was. They would consciously think good thoughts about that plant while they totally ignored the kitchen plant.

Four weeks later, the children and the teacher could hardly believe what they saw. The kitchen plant was spindly and sickly, and it hadn’t grown at all. But the classroom plant, which had been sung to and bathed in positive thoughts and words, had tripled in size with dark, healthy-looking leaves.

Of course, the tenderhearted children feared for the life of the kitchen plant. So the teacher brought it into the classroom to join the other ivy and all the students. They gave it the same caring attention they gave their first classroom plant, and within four weeks, the two plants were equally alive, healthy, vibrant, and indistinguishable.

People are very much the same way. They also grow with love, and they do better with recognition.

Last week I gave you a few recognition “principles.” But let me give you a few specific things you can do to recognize your employees. Just pick and choose, or do and say the things that would fit into your work environment. And if your want to get real good at this, you need to attend my Peak Performance Boot Camp.

Here are some options..

1. Post the person’s name.

Whether you put the employee’s name in the company newsletter, on the intranet e-mail, or on the welcome sign in the company lobby, most people feel extremely honored when they see their name in writing. It makes their recognition a bit more visible and a bit more permanent.

When Willy Brandt was mayor of West Berlin, he visited Israel. In Tel Aviv, his host invited him to see the magnificent new Mann auditorium.

Brandt expressed surprise and appreciation that Israel had named the auditorium after the German writer Thomas Mann. His host corrected him. The hall was actually named for Frederic Mann of Philadelphia. “Oh,” said, Brandt. “What did he write?” “A check.” his host replied.

2. Give away small tangible tokens of recognition.

Perhaps you remember your kids getting all excited at the dentists’ office when they got a sticker for being good. They might have jumped and shouted, “A sticker, a sticker, a sticker.”

In a similar sense, adults are nothing more than babies in big bodies. They appreciate the simplest tokens of recognition. Maybe you give away movie tickets, cookies, pens, key chains, or car wash certificates. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is given as a sincere gesture of thanks and it fits the person you’re giving it to.

3. Write and send a personal thank-you note.

I find such notes to be so important, so cherished that some employees keep them for months or years. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. You may hand write a small thank you on a sticky note or send a more elegant store-bought card for bigger acts of recognition.

You could even get quite organized and intentional about it. Keep a stock of note cards on your desk where you can’t ignore them. Then at the end of the day, take a few minutes to write thank-you notes to anyone who made a difference that day.

Dr. Arthur R. Pell, in his book, The Complete Idiots’ Guide to Managing People, says you might even create “success files” for your employees. For example, the sales manager of a large real estate office in Florida sends letters of appreciation to sales staffers who do something special. Perhaps the salesperson has sold a property that was difficult to move or finally brought a buyer and seller together on a deal.

The letter itself is a nice gesture, but this manager takes it a step further. With her letter of thanks she also encloses a file folder labeled “Success File.” And she tells her staffers to place the enclosed letter in the folder. She also tells the person to add any other letters of commendation that person receives from her, other managers, clients, or anyone else.

This manager tells her staff, “There may be times you don’t feel good about yourself. When this happens, reread these letters. They’re proof that you’re a success, that you have capability, that you are a special person. In other words, you did it before, and you can do it again!”

4. Get systematic about it.

Quite frankly, it’s easier to praise some people than others, and some weeks you have more time than others. But if you only recognized the “easy” people on the less “stressful” weeks, you’d be running a very sloppy haphazard recognition program that doesn’t come anywhere near to creating a peak performance work environment.

Get systematic about it. Make up a weekly to-do list on which you record all the names of people who report to you. Also record the goals you want your organization to achieve and the behaviors you want your people to exhibit. Then look for at least one thing each person does each week that fits those criteria — and praise it, recognize it.

Use the daily 5-coin method. At the beginning of the day, put five coins in your left pocket. Then during the day, look for ways you can praise your employees, and each time you offer praise, transfer a coin to another pocket. Your goal, of course, is to transfer all five coins everyday so you develop the recognition habit.

6. Use voice mail.

Too many times voice mail is only used to assign low level tasks or pass along less-than-critical information. Start to change that around. Leave messages on your employees’ cell phones praising them for a job well done. You can even do this as you drive on the way home to save yourself some time.

As a team leader, you want and need your team members to be confident and productive. Effective, appropriate praise helps you get that.

And just in case you’re moaning, thinking you’re too busy or it would take too much work, this praising process should be fairly easy. Coach John Gagliardi from St. John’s University makes that clear. He says if you’ve got to keep on coaching one of your team members, if you’ve got to continually tell him what to do, or if you’ve got to criticize or correct his behavior over and over gain, you’ve got the wrong player in that position. It should be easy to praise your team members.

Take what you learned from this week’s “Tuesday Tip,” and go out there and make a difference.

Action:  Be a detective. Be on the lookout for five behaviors or five contributions that you like in your coworkers. Then take a few minutes to send them a note of praise. Send them a handwritten note or a voice mail. You’ll be glad you did.