Giving Thanks For Your Employees

This week millions of us will celebrate Thanksgiving; that day every year where we take a moment between stuffing ourselves at the table to give thanks for what we have.  It is a time of being grateful for those in our lives and the value they add to our existence.  Next month many more celebrate the holidays according to their faith’s traditions with most exchanging gifts with each other.

Several years back I was managing a large team of associates, and although it had always been my tradition back to my first role as a manager to give a gift to each of my staff, this year I didn’t have the income to stretch that far.  It was about this same time of year, and I was quite perplexed at what I was going to do, when one of the managers in my group made this comment.  She said, “Boy we go from being thankful for what we got all year to a month of getting and giving gifts; I wish we had a breather in between.”  And that is when this idea came to me.

I had been sweating what item to give to my staff, and I remember how my time as their manager is probably the most valuable thing I can ever give.  So I went out and bought a “holiday” greeting card for each person that celebrated their faith appropriately.  I decided not to be politically correct this year.  I then wrote each of them a personal letter detailing how they contributed to our success as a team that past year, and how vital they were to our continued success.  As much as possible I tried to recall some of the smallest things they may have done that made a difference.

When it came time to pass them out, about half of them I had to use our inter-office mail, and the rest I was able to place on their desk early one morning.  After I had finished I went back to my office to work.  To my surprise, the first emails I received that morning were from my employees on the East Coast, which was three hours ahead of me.  They had just opened the inter-branch mail and read my notes.  The gratitude and appreciation was overwhelming as I read one long email after another.  Each one was responding to my letter going in the opposite direction feeding me stories about how I made a difference in their lives.

By the time I had finished, I looked at my clock and was dumbfounded how quiet it was in the office this morning.  Normally by now things were rocking and loud, so I took a peek to see what was up.  Well everyone was there, but they all had their noses in the letters.  I snuck back into my office and left them to their reading.

Over the next couple of days, I received either an email or a personal letter thanking me for my gift and playing back even more stories about how I had impacted their lives in a positive way.  Although this was not my intention to solicit the same gift, I felt that year I had really figured out the management secret of giving thanks to your employees, and the cost was just my time.


Surviving the Carnival Splendor

Anyone reading a newspaper or watching the news on TV last week, no doubt read about the unfortunate fire that a cruise ship had off the Mexican coast last week.  My family and I were some of the 4500 people on board for a cruise I will never forget.

This was the 31st cruise I have been on (yes I love cruise vacations) and it was not the expected treat.  Day one was pleasant enough, but waking at 6:00am to a fire in the engine room was the beginning of a down hill slide.

What was noted throughout the ship by the 3000+ passengers where the 1500+ staff and crew, and how positive they remained and how much their team spirit held things together.  Without much power, there was little being done the way it normally is week in and week out.  Everyone had to think outside the box.

I credit these results to good management, but not necessarily good leadership.  Let me tell you why.

Management skills are what we use when we are working with individuals through performance expectations, coaching and feedback.  This was evident in the way everyone was responding to our situation.

Management skills were evident from the officers sailing the ship because everything worked well and had been practiced enough that everyone knew their job.  Of course the real difference is the military code of enforcement, and people do what the Captain tells them to without questions.

Now Leadership skills, which include vision and strategic planning, were not as evident as everyone was scrambling to figure out contingency plans for taking care of the passengers.  Even the Chef was way out of his comfort zone trying to figure out how to feed people using only cold or dry food.  How hard would an alternate food menu be to have on hand?

We survived, and no one was injured.  I thank God, everyone on board, the US Coast Guard and US Navy for coming to our rescue.

I will sail again, but I hope that all cruise lines increase their attention on Leadership Skill Development.  A little more vision, and a lot more Strategy Planning needs to be in place soon!

It is Time for Leadership!

The “historic” 2010 elections are now behind us, and we have turned another page in our history of government of the people, by the people and for the people.  I’m one American that is relieved to see the system works.

Now as the saying goes, it is time to stop talking and start walking.  I am looking forward to seeing how many of our leaders are “into” actually doing what they say they will do.  If they want to work together, I for one want to see this happening.

I probably hate people lying to me more than any other communication tool.  To me, lying is the quickest way for a leader in the government and private sector to lose the trust of those they are leading.  Talking one talk and walking another walk, is lying!

Whether you are in a position of leadership or not, try to focus on doing what you say you will do.  And if you don’t plan to do anything, then be honest and say that.

Those are my thoughts, what are your thoughts?