Gratitude: Your Most Powerful Tool

At my company, we used to show people our gratitude by keeping them employed. You know, giving them a paycheck. Heck, what else were we expected to do… am I right?

The answer of course was, no… I was dead wrong!

There are plenty of surveys that ask employees to rank what’s most important to them when it comes to their job. And if you’re like I was, you might say it’s all about the money. But, time and again, the surveys show that employees don’t value their paycheck as number or 1 or even in the top 5.

Always in the top 5 is being appreciated by those who they work with and to whom they report.

My belief is people don’t go to work for a paycheck. They go to work so the paychecks doesn’t stop. And although they can't spend “appreciation” at the grocery store, there's a lot more at play with your team than just getting paid.

I came to learn that employees want and crave appreciation and gratitude for what they do. Good to know. The bad news is, it wasn’t something I was comfortable with doing and neither were my brothers, who were my partners, along with my dad.

We, the 3rd generation in the business, had all grown up with the belief that if we complimented them, they’d take it as a sign that they could ease up and relax.

Yes, that was stupid.

In fact, praising and saying thank you to your team both in public, in front of their peers, and individually as often as you humanly can is your most powerful tool in your management tool box.

And piling on praise and saying thank you are the biggest and best tools in your gratitude tool kit.

It’s so easy as owners and managers to ignore the staff for doing what you expect or at least hope they’ll do day-to-day and only seeking them out when you see or hear about how they screwed up. After all, we’re busy and we’re not supposed to be their mom and dad… are we?

Well, we are their surrogate mom and dad at the workplace. And even though we’re not related, the nature of any business is that it operates like a family. The only question is, what type of family culture will your business have? Will it be nurturing and supportive, or will it be critical and combative?

Sometimes, this is reflective of our thinking as owners and managers that we have to be overly tough or the employees will take advantage of us and feel they can do whatever they want whenever they want.

It’s actually the opposite.

You have to have documented policies and procedures to have standards. The obligation of management is to share these standards and hold your team to those standards. What it means is we make as much, if not more, effort to show our appreciation for when they hit those standards and exceed them.

We need to be doing this not just in challenging time like COVID-19 but also in the good times.

Gratitude also means on a personal, as well as business, level you show your appreciation for all you have and for what all others do for you. It’s not just good for them… it’s essential to your well-being. You have to give it to get to receive the benefits.

Know that this practice of gratitude and saying thank you for anything I found my team doing in a positive way was incredibly unnatural at first. It was anything but instinctual. And it wasn’t easy for my brothers and our managers. It was a paradigm shift. It was just bad habits on our part that we remained silent when they did good and attacked them with criticism when they let us down.

What was letting us down and disappointing us?

We were angry when our installers would take longer than we had figured the job should take. The thing was, we never told them how long they had, and we didn’t go over what the work was going to be before they started the job in any formal way. We didn’t have any incentive for them to bring jobs in on time and on budget. Many times, the person selling the job shortcutted the proper pricing to get a sale. The process was broken, and especially on the communications end. That said, the process we found out was broken every step along the way from giving the bid, to figuring the correct pricing, to ordering properly, to giving out the jobs the right way, and to running the jobs while in progress.

When we stopped yelling at each other, we decided that we’d all be better off if we acknowledged that everyone plays a role in this and that there needed to be objective benchmarks and systems that would make it fair for all.

It worked great. The whole team grew up together and my job as an owner shifted from blaming to being proactive about going to everyone on the outside doing the work and in the office to say how much I appreciated each and every one of them.

Hey, here’s what I can tell you. You can never underestimate the power of bringing coffee and donuts to a jobsite where your people are working hard. I should have known this because when I was doing the work it got lonely out there and I appreciated it when someone would swing by too.

Yes, most of us love coffee and donuts, but what we really love and crave is someone taking time to connect with us one-to-one in a positive way.

Learn to breathe. Learn to let go of past disappointments. Learn to let go of the anger and frustration.

Learn to find them doing something good and heap a ton of praise on them. Learn to give gratitude anywhere you can and experience the difference in your business and your life.

Al Levi teaches contractors how to run their businesses with less stress and more success with operating manuals. To get control of your business and grow the right way, get The 7-Power Contractor® Signature Operating Manuals System at today.

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