Several executives were standing around my office the other day, debating what to do about a particular employee. Not that someone was in trouble – rather, this person had performed an outstanding accomplishment, one which had a substantial impact on our bottom line. They were discussing how best to acknowledge this. A special luncheon in her honor? A handwritten letter? A big “thank you” message written in the sky?
We decided the best thing was for her manager to sit down with her, face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart, and simply tell her what a great job she had done. Come to think of it, we should probably be doing this all the time anyways, with each other and all of our people whenever we catch them doing a good job, large or small.
“Everyone wants to be acknowledged,” I offered, “even us, the execs.” They nodded heartily in agreement. Just because we’re big-shot leaders doesn’t mean that we don’t need the soul-rush of a good pat on the back once in a while, or an earnest gesture of appreciation. I don’t care who you are, or what your position is, it’s nice to be recognized for the good work you are doing. And I bet that makes you more likely to give recognition to others, creating a virtuous cycle of “Good work!”
The group then dispersed, back to their responsibilities and headaches, and in all likelihood, promptly got caught up in the details of an imminent project, forgetting all about our inspirational conversation.
Not ten minutes later, I received a call from the Chairman of the Board of Directors from a company which I serve on.
“Oh,” I replied, somewhat flustered. “Well. Thanks.”
I really didn’t think my Board contribution was all that impressive. I hesitated for a second, wondering what else he was really calling about. An update? Some corporate gossip? An urgent concern?
“There’s nothing else,” he continued. “I just wanted to tell you that. We really appreciate having your gray matter in the room with us.”
Since my wife is a Psychologist, I knew right away that “gray matter” referred to my brain. Good thing, though.
With that, he said goodbye and we hung up. This was odd, the timing, coming just minutes after the discussion in my office. I imagined him driving his car down the highway on his way to some meeting, and having the mindfulness, the will and thoughtfulness to actually make that call and say what he said. It was very intentional.
So why does it always seem like such an ordeal in my own mind?
We’re all extremely busy and important, and I know, I know, it takes such a huge effort to pick up the phone and dial those ten numbers — or one number, if it’s speed dial — or to mobilize your legs to walk over to someone’s office, and then to move your lips like that and activate your vocal chords to say, “Good job. I appreciate you.”
Whew! It’s so much work!
So we forget. We procrastinate. We’re lazy about these softer things. We need constant reminders, like someone calling you out of the blue to exemplify the point immediately following a discussion about it.
You know, sometimes God sends these signals that are really hard to miss. He might as well have written me a message in the sky.