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MOTIVATING TODAY'S EMPLOYEE

Have you ever stopped to really consider what motivates you or your employees?? This is a critical question for today?s companies. When I do one-on-one coaching with employers, this topic comes up a lot. For decades, most businesses have utilized extrinsic methods of motivation with the ?carrot? and the ?stick.?? This typically takes the form of bonus plans or negative reviews and firing for poor performance. The question to be asked is whether or not we are getting the desired results from these extrinsic efforts to motivate our teams.

Interestingly, recent scientific studies are challenging the way business leaders have traditionally thought about getting results. Researchers at the London School of Economics conducted an analysis of 51 separate studies on financial incentives in employment relations and found overwhelming evidence that the incentives may ?reduce an employee?s natural inclination to complete a task and derive pleasure from doing so.? According to Dr. Irlenbusch of the LSE, ?we find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace norms such as fairness.? As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.?

Author and speaker Dan Pink helps us make sense of this counterintuitive point by arguing that extrinsic rewards are only effective for left brain activities that involve rules and routine tasks such as certain types of accounting, financial analysis, or computer programming. However, there has been a major shift in many organizations to outsource as much of this routine work as possible. Therefore, many jobs today require more right brain creative problem solving skills than ever before.? The problem, as noted above, is that studies have shown that traditional incentives do not work well to motive employees tasked with right brain responsibilities.

When you look at the way most firms attempt to motivate their employees, it becomes apparent that most businesses have not caught up with these scientific discoveries.? So, what do we do to motivate today?s employees?? Leading thinkers point to the value of intrinsic rewards for work.? Pink notes three key elements for the new paradigm of employee motivation:? Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Autonomy

It is particularly apparent with the younger generations that they will be demanding more autonomy in their work life.? They will not be content to be blindly directed by management without some level of self-direction.? Employees empowered with autonomy usually have a sense ?ownership? and are more engaged.? A practical example of this is Google?s practice of allowing its engineers to spend 20% of their paid time on their own projects.? Of note is that about half of Google?s products and services have been created by employees during this autonomous work time including Gmail. In the extreme, some companies have completely gone away from schedules and allow everyone to work their own hours.? The bottom line is that autonomous workers have greater productivity and job satisfaction.? The problem is that the ?manager? mindset has been so ingrained in our business psyche that this can be a difficult shift.

Mastery

For centuries, most people either worked in agriculture or in a trade with their hands.? This usually involved years of training and experience to master a craft.? In the industrial age, we were challenged because our labor became repetitive and disconnected from the final product or service. This led to inevitable job dissatisfaction problems and poor productivity. Today is no different. We want to provide the opportunity for our employees to learn and become better at their skills and abilities.? We all tend to feel better about ourselves when we improve.? A focus on mastery allows people to once again become experts at their craft and to continually improve.? It is no wonder that most successful organizations today place a high value on the training and development of their people.

Purpose

When your work seems pointless, it is hard to become motivated to give it your best.? An effective leader knows how to bridge this gap and let each employee know how his or her contribution directly impacts the success of the organization.? I believe that as human beings we all desire to find our purpose in life.? Since work takes such a huge part of our time, it is only natural to seek meaning and purpose in our work. I strongly advocate that businesses also benefit when they have clearly stated visions and values that define who they are.? This allows employees to connect with the larger purpose of the company.

In sum, it will be imperative for businesses to embrace these scientific findings that intrinsic motivators can achieve the best organizational results.? I believe in the very near term, U.S. companies will face increased competition globally even in the right-brain work prevalent in our economy today.? Incentivizing management and workers with outdated ?carrot? and ?stick? models will lead to being left behind.? Companies that unleash the potential of their employees through intrinsic motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose will lead the pack in the future.

LEADERSHIP RESOLUTIONS

The New Year brings a sense of renewal and change.? Studies show that almost half of Americans make New Year?s resolutions. Unfortunately only about 10% of those will actually achieve their goals. As you might imagine, resolutions to improve health and finances rank at the top of the wish list. ?One of the key ways to achieve resolutions is to let them become a habit.? Psychologist Williams James noted, ?All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.?? While it is frequently said that it only takes 21 days to make a new habit stick, my review of the scientific literature on the subject indicates that it takes our brains closer to 60 days to actually rewire around a new habit.? As we enter 2015, here are a few leadership ideas to consider making a habit.

Just Say No

It?s tough to say no.? We might offend someone or miss an opportunity.? A friend of mine describes the need to ?chase shiny things? versus staying focused.? However, great leaders know that the ability to say no is critical.? As Gandhi said, ?A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.?? Leadership expert Tony Schwartz similarly emphasized, ?Saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times.? We have more options than ever and countless opportunities vying for our attention.? It is more important than ever to be purposeful about what we say yes to.? However, this is no easy task.? We often have to say no to many good things.? However, unless we say no to the ?good? then we will never be able to focus our time, talent, and energy on the ?great.?

Show Appreciation

Studies have shown that for knowledge workers, money alone is insufficient to motivate performance.? Dan Pink summarized this research in his book Drive and noted that workers are best incentivized by creating an atmosphere of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. ?In addition, I believe that people need authentic and genuine appreciation.? As I interview employees in organizations, I am amazed at the number of them who have never been shown appreciation in any form.? Appreciation is like a gift.? There is no reason as a leader to be stingy with this gift. ?Whether a subordinate, co-worker, or a boss, I highly encourage people to get in the habit of showing appreciation.

Follow Up

I believe one of the most difficult aspects of leadership today is living by the motto ?say what you are going to do, and do what you say.? ?As I was beginning my career, a wise businessman told me that if I would do good work, return phone calls, and do what I said then I would always have plenty of work to do.? I believe there is great truth in his advice.? As leaders, we need to make a habit of being excellent at follow up and execution.? In addition, if you have people that you are delegating to then you need to be very intentional about follow up.? One of my early mentors kept a legal pad where he wrote down every promise someone gave him regarding delivery on a project or task.? If you missed a deadline, you could expect an immediate phone call from him.? My observation was that his team knew that when they were assigned a task and deadline that he meant it.

I hope these ideas will be an encouragement to you to be the best leader you can be in 2016.

ELEVATE: HELPING OTHERS BE THEIR BEST

Paul Simon, one of my favorite musical artists, penned a song, I Am A Rock in 1965.? The song about a recluse repeats the chorus, ?I am a rock, I am an island.?? I think about this song a lot because we tend to forget that achievement in life is rarely a solo act.? We aren?t islands.? We all stand on the shoulders of those of who preceded us and helped us along the way.

Are We Independent or Interdependent?

Herbert Hoover, the United States? 31st President, emphasized our country?s ?rugged individualism.?? He believed that the U.S. faced a decision between ?the American system of ?rugged individualism? or the choice of a European system of diametrically opposed doctrines ? doctrines of paternalism and state socialism.? He said, ?The acceptance of these ideas meant the destruction of self-government through centralization of government; it meant the undermining of initiative and enterprise upon which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.?? It is interesting that over 85 years later, the U.S. still debates this choice.

Regardless of your political views on this point, there is no denying that the emphasis on individualism and a ?frontier mentality? runs deep in our culture.?? These concepts are related to the ?American Dream? – the idea that each of us can have upward mobility through hard work.? James Truslow Adams coined the term ?American Dream? in his 1931 book Epic of America. He stated, ?The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.?

I describe these cultural patterns because it is easy to take them for granted and not realize the impact on our thinking and our lives.? While there are many positive aspects of these ideas, we sometimes fail to understand their limitations. We can?t lose sight that the greatest successes in life are made with and through people.? Great achievements in life are never solo endeavors.? Sometimes we forget that.? We can be like the turtle on the fencepost.? As the story goes, when you find a turtle on top of a fencepost, “You know he didn’t get there by himself, he doesn’t belong there, he doesn’t know what to do while he’s up there, and you just want to help get him down.”

In reality, our success in life is linked to the lives of other people (whether we recognize it or not). There is a great expression that we are standing on the shoulders of giants.? This quote was first attributed to 12th century scholar Bernard of Chartres, who used to say ?we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than them, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.?

The late Zig Ziglar had a wonderful quote he often repeated that ?If you help enough people get what they want in life, you will get what you want.?? This was not a manipulative idea; instead, it is one that recognizes that, by serving others, we truly are helping ourselves.? When we can walk in humility and realize that our success in life is not just the result of our own hard work, but the help of many others along the way, then we are on our way to being a true leader.

Elevating Others

Once we recognize that success in life is not a solo act, then we can begin to consider the importance of building up others to create a great team.? An organization with high performance teams will go further, faster.?? Teams are built on a foundation of trust.? One of the ways to build trust is to invest yourself in the lives of others.? What does this mean?? It means that you help other people elevate and achieve their goals and objectives.?? Unfortunately, this is rare.? We are typically so caught up in the tyranny of the urgent of our own matters that we don?t stop and consider the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of others.?? Think about it ? do you really know what your colleagues are seeking out of life?? Do you know what motivates them to get out of bed in the morning?? What would be the difference if you did?? By taking the time to understand your colleagues hopes and dreams, you are investing yourself in their lives.

I have experienced the benefits of others investing in my life first hand. After earning my law degree, I launched into the practice of law which I enjoyed; however, I felt like my true calling was to use my business and legal training to be a strategic advisor to companies.? I knew for several years that I wanted to make this transition, but I was stuck.? I could not seem to make the switch and clung to my law career like a child holds onto a favorite blanket. I would not let it go.? Two people helped me better understand my motivations, clarify my path, and make this next step in my career.? One was Dr. Carl Hicks.? Carl helped me gain a much deeper understanding of myself.? Carl is an expert with the Birkman? assessment tools and used them to help me clearly see my deepest motivators as an individual.? Through his example and encouragement, I realized that I could make this transition.? He coached and encouraged me along the way.? For that, I am forever grateful.

I also was encouraged by my friend and colleague Andy Wimberly. Andy made a successful transition from being a well-established financial advisor to an executive coach.? As he says, ?it took me 15 years to become an overnight success as a coach,? but his example and encouragement reinforced my confidence.? Both Andy and Carl reached out and helped me help myself.? They challenged me and created accountability.? They would not let me just ?talk the talk? about change, I had to ?walk the walk.? They shared and continue to share their wisdom and life experiences with me. I use the examples of Carl and Andy to illustrate the point that there is a significant impact of helping others be their best.

The Rewards

There are both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for investing yourself in helping people to be their best.? You will find that when you help others elevate that you feel better about yourself.? I write a weekly column on leadership.? I have interviewed hundreds of leaders for this column and one of the standard questions I ask is ?What is your proudest moment as a leader??? By far, the most frequent response I get is the satisfaction that comes from seeing others develop and move on to achieving great things.? There is typically no direct financial reward for these leaders for that kind of success.? However, by watching others succeed that they had invested in, they were able to know that their investment paid off.? They could see the fruit of their efforts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, ?The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.? I also like Benjamin Disraeli?s statement, ?The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.? ?I hope that you will consider whether you are being the kind of leader who is elevating others to help them reach full potential.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

After an unplanned hiatus from much airline travel, I have recently begun once again frequenting the ?friendly skies.?? As with many service businesses, I am struck by the wide variance in customer service among the airlines.? While some companies acted like they were doing me a favor to let me travel with them, others actually made traveling fun.? Having been involved with service businesses for almost twenty years, I am fascinated by how some companies seem to make customer service look so easy while most others glaringly fall short.

Shining examples of stellar service include Chic-fil-A, Southwest, and, of course, Disney.? In fact, a friend recently shared with me a classic Disney experience.? After several tense minutes at the front desk trying to check into their room, they were shocked to find out that they had been randomly picked to be upgraded to a luxurious suite for their weeklong stay.? That?s service!? No telling how many people they have shared that positive Disney experience with.

What?s the secret? How come some companies just seem to do it better than others?? On individual basis, it obviously starts with great people.? I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about an airline pilot who displays exemplary customer service. Capt. Flanagan routinely takes pictures of stowed pets to let the owners know they are on board and safe; calls the parents of children traveling alone to reassure them; and writes notes on his business card to first class passengers to thank them for their business.? In fact, when storms detour his flights to unplanned destinations, he will often call ahead and order food for his weary passengers. If only the rest of United Airlines? pilots shared his passion they would dominate the market.

Secret Service

John Dijulius in his book Secret Service? gives us some great practical guidance.? Dijulius has studied many of the great customer service companies and applied their best practices in his multi-location spa/salon business located outside of Cleveland, Ohio.? Using practical illustrations, he examines what truly allows some companies to excel.? He describes how every company has their own customer experience cycle. For example, how does a prospective customer first interact with your business? How is your product or service delivered? What follow up occurs with each customer? Diagramming this process will allow you to see what your particular business? customer experience cycle looks like and who plays the critical roles in its success.? Only then can you design a world class customer experience cycle that you can implement in your business.

Creating the Experience

Almost every business can benefit from enhancing their customer?s experience.? Think about your own interactions as a customer. Where was the last place that made you say Wow!? Where did you last stop and take note of the outstanding service that was being provided?? Was it at your physician?s office or car repair shop? Was it maybe during your last dining experience or retail excursion?? Think further about who consistently Wow?s you.? Where can you go time and time again and feel like you are truly appreciated and taken care of as a customer?? Disappointingly, in my experience, there are too few of these. The key for business owners is creating a quality and repeatable customer experience.

Moving Past Good Intentions

Most business owners I know want to please their customers. They know that their customers are the lifeblood of their business.? The problem is that great customer service is great in theory but tremendously difficult to consistently execute on. ?I see many companies that start off with high aspirations and great intentions regarding customer service.? However, for many business owners, the day to day demands of payroll, rent, and staffing tend to overshadow proactive customer service activities. Before losing hope, remember that it can happen ? you really can have great customer service.? The key is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and truly understand your company?s unique customer experience cycle.? Once you design a great customer experience, then it takes good hiring, lots of training, and accountability systems to make this a reality.? Customer service can?t be left up to chance but must become a non-negotiable systemic part of your business.? Applying these and other customer service best practices will help you create a competitive edge in the marketplace.

CREATING AN ENGAGED WORKFORCE

One of the key habits of entrepreneurially minded physicians is developing an engaged workforce. The Gallup Organization has done extensive research on the engagement level of employees in organizations and the overall impact on company results.? According to Gallup?s research, engaged employees are more productive, profitable, customer-focused, safer, and less likely to leave.? In the average organization, 30% of the employees are engaged, 50% are disengaged, and 20% are actively disengaged.? In comparison, in world-class organizations, 63% of employees are engaged, 29% are disengaged, and 8% are actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are those who have a positive attitude, take personal responsibility for their actions, are passionate and committed to the company?s goals, contribute discretionary effort, and are solution oriented.? These are the ?A? players on the team. Disengaged employees are those who ?punch the clock.?? They do just enough to keep their jobs and are resistant to change.? They don?t give the organization their discretionary effort and tend to react passively to problems.? Finally, disengaged employees are those who are poison pills in the organization.? They stir up trouble and recruit others to their cause s.? They blame other people for their problems and make excuses.? They erode a company?s bottom line and bring down the morale of an organization.

Physician leaders, like other organizational leaders, spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with actively disengaged employees.? They are the squeaky wheels on the staff.?? We often are forced to ignore our engaged employees as we clean up the messes of the disengaged and actively disengaged members of our staff.? Effective leaders know how to raise the bar and increase the level of engagement of their teams.? They know how to actively listen and learn what the root causes of the problems are.? They don?t ignore issues, but instead, deal with them head on.? Leaders can raise the level of engagement by sharing a compelling vision, coaching their team members, communicating clearly, raising expectations, and insisting on accountability.

In a medical setting, a poorly engaged team can lead to disastrous results.?? Patient care and safety is obviously first and foremost.? Disengaged and actively disengaged employees are apt to ?let balls drop? that can lead to safety issues for patients.?? This could include forgetting to follow up on medications or testing, or even mishandling paperwork or other instructions.? Beyond safety issues, disengaged and actively disengaged employees project their poor attitudes to patients.? The patients (customers) have plenty of options for healthcare services.? Rude treatment by staff can run off patients in a hurry.? For better or worse, these staff team members are the front line representatives.? The quality of the patient experience will largely be dictated by the treatment from the medical staff.? The net effect is that the level of engagement of a practice?s employees has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Interestingly, Gallup?s research found that engaged organizations have 2.6 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to other lower engagement organizations in the same industry.?? The engagement level of employees has a direct impact on key performance areas including absenteeism, turnover, safety, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Creating an engaged workforce is easier said than done.? First, sometimes we have to ?get people off the bus.?? This means we have to recognize and deal with actively disengaged people.? While some employees may be salvageable, sometimes the best thing to do is to let someone go.?? A disengaged employee is obviously not happy.? We don?t do them favors by keeping them in a miserable job.? For salvageable disengaged employees and the generally disengaged, we need to learn how to be better coaches.?? We do this by observing our employees better, questioning them to learn more about their motivations, truly listening to their responses, and giving candid feedback.? Finally, we have to rally them to action.? This means that we? establish clear expectations and standards, and I prefer to put these in writing.? It is critically important to have regular accountability meetings to track progress towards goals and expectations.

It is important to remember that employees do things for their own reasons, and not their leaders.? In the end, all motivation is self-motivation.? While we can yell, scream, and threaten someone into doing their job better, they are not going to become an engaged worker utilizing that management style. Engaged employees respond best to visionary and coaching leadership styles.? The dilemma for physicians is that they are extensively trained on their clinical skills, but not on the entrepreneurial skills of being a great leader.?? Learning to be a great leader can be accomplished by first embracing it as a real priority.? Books and podcasts can be used to grow these leadership skills.? Ultimately, it is a process that the physician must undertake in conjunction with his or her team.

Regardless of your practice setting, you will likely be working with people that either work directly for you or with you.? There is no reason to allow your practice to be an ?average? organization with almost 70% of your employees disengaged.? Just imagine the patient satisfaction and enhanced profitability that you could experience if you were able to reverse that and have at least 70% of your employees be engaged.? Creating an engaged workforce is a habit that you can start today in reshaping your practice and planning for tomorrow!

BIG IDEAS

In the time that I have been writing about leadership, I have had the incredible opportunity to visit with leaders from around the state of Mississippi.? I have been challenged and inspired by their stories.? Each week I try to pass along the tips and wisdom I learn from these leaders.? As readers have probably noted, I try to focus on at least one big idea that came from the interview.? When I talk with prospective interviewees, I emphasize that the purpose of this column is to inspire and motivate other leaders around the state. I do this because I believe leadership matters ? in a big way.? It is hard to understate the importance of leadership in an organization.? Unfortunately, we talk about leadership so much in the business community we can sometimes take it for granted.?? However, As Dr. John Maxwell, ?Everything rises and falls with leadership.?? The longer I live, the more I believe this to be true.? Below are just a few of the big ideas that I have seen as recurring themes in my study of outstanding leaders.

Leaders Lead

While this is stating the obvious, the point is that leaders take initiative.? They don?t wait for a title. They see a need and act on it.? When the call goes out for help, they are the first to raise their hand. Leadership is about serving.? There are countless ways in every organization to step up and serve.? True leaders are servant leaders and are not in it for their own glory.? For those wanting to rise in their leadership, I encourage you to begin today by seeking ways to contribute and add value. ?Titles will follow ? leadership can begin immediately.

Leaders Know Themselves

The ancient Greeks used to emphasize the importance to ?Know Thyself.? One of the key aspects I have noticed about effective leaders is that they know who they are.? They are comfortable in their own skin and have a quiet confidence.? They know their strengths and weaknesses and know how to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.? They are self-aware.? Effective leaders don?t waste time trying to be something they are not. Authentic leadership comes from the heart.? People follow that kind of leader.

Leaders Lead Themselves

Former IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson Sr. noted, ?Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” ?Similarly, Dr. Maxwell pointed out, ?Learning to lead yourself well is one of the most important things you?ll ever do as a leader.??? It is easy to think about leadership in terms of leading others.? While that is certainly important, true leaders begin by effectively leading themselves.? They realize that they must continually be growing as a leader if they are to be effective.? True leaders know they need to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.? They are continual learners.? Allowing yourself to become burned out does not help the cause of your organization.? I believe that leaders who develop a lifelong commitment to growth and proper boundaries are the best suited to make a difference for the long haul.

I hope a few of these leadership lessons I have learned from my interviews will be an encouragement to you in your own leadership journey.? Leadership is a journey, not a destination. May your journey continue to be a great one!? I will continue to share leadership insights from outstanding leaders as we continue this journey together.

 

THE POWER OF AFTER-ACTION REVIEWS

A training document for the Department of the Army begins with the statements, ?Modern combat is complex and demanding.? We must use every training opportunity to improve soldier, leader, and unit task performance. To improve their individual and collective-task performances to meet or exceed the Army standard, soldiers and leaders must know and understand what happened or did not happen during every training event.?? The document I am referencing is a training manual on how to conduct After-action reviews (AARs).? AARs are widely used in the military.? These reviews ?identify how to correct deficiencies, sustain strengths, and focus on performance of specific mission essential tasks list training objectives.?? These AARs help everyone understand what did and did not occur and why.

AARs create a feedback loop that compares the actual output of a process with the intended outcome. It takes honesty and candor to actually make this a meaningful exercise.? Soldiers learn and remember more by participating in the AAR process than just getting a critique of their performance.? In the military, AARs are conducted either formally or more spontaneously as informal reviews.? The purpose of the AAR is not to punish or be hypercritical.? It is a powerful learning tool to improve performance.

I spend a lot of time interviewing employees of organizations.? I am shocked at how often employees tell me that they never get feedback on their performance.? To grow and learn as an organization, you have to create feedback loops.? Every organization has key events, projects, and performances that warrant taking the time to do an after-action review. Business consultant and best-selling author Peter Senge has stated, ?The Army’s After Action Review is arguably one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised.? ?I encourage organizations to adopt this ?habit? that has been so successful for the military.

Organizational After-Action Reviews

Organizations that seek continuous improvement can utilize AARs to engage and equip their workforce. Again, AARs are intended to focus on tasks and goals to discover why things happen.? They are not intended to judge success or failure. ?Examples of when formal AARs can be used in the workplace include after major presentations, technology changes, or launching a new service or product.? Informal AARs can also be used routinely.? For example, they can be used after a patient or customer encounter. The leader uses these opportunities to ask open ended questions and to understand why certain actions were taken. Participants are challenged to explore alternative courses of actions that would have been more effective.? Participants should also compare the results and actions with the expected standards and outcomes.

The biggest challenge to utilizing AARs in our organizations is time.? In our hectic and fast paced schedule, we rarely take time to purposely have these type learning sessions.? However, failure to do so slows our learning and can cause us to continually make the same mistakes over and over.? It is also easier to bark a reprimand at an employee than to take the time to probe his or her actions and find a better way to do things.?? Don?t let the tyranny of the urgent keep you from benefitting from this powerful tool in your organization.

Personal After-Action Reviews

John Maxwell is one of my favorite authors.? He is a prolific writer and effective speaker.?? In his book Today Matters he states, ?People create success in their lives by focusing on today. ?He emphasizes that, ?It may sound trite, but today is the only time you have.? It?s too late for yesterday and you can?t depend on tomorrow. That?s why today matters.?? I learned from reading his books about a habit he has of reviewing each day.? He has list of questions that he asks himself as he reflects on his day.? What he is really doing is having a personal AAR for each day of his life.? When you take time to reflect and learn from your daily experiences, you create a powerful virtuous loop of improvement.? I believe we create so many of our own ?potholes? in life by needlessly repeating poor habits and behaviors.? When you have a daily AAR you see these ?potholes? clearly and can learn to avoid them.

I took his concept and created my own daily list of questions to focus my reflection on my day.? I write out the answers to force myself to think through my responses.? It never takes more than five to ten minutes, but it is one of the most important things I do each day.? You can use this type of personal AAR to reflect on how you are doing on your goals and how you are living as compared to your values.? This time allows you to see your progress in developing good habits and eradicating bad ones.? Having a daily AAR is an investment of time, but one that pays large dividends.

While we might not be preparing for military battle, life and business do have significant challenges.? In order to thrive and not just survive, we need to be constantly improving individually and organizationally.? I encourage you to borrow the After-action review concept form the military and apply it in your own organization and personal life.? You won?t regret it.

 

Originally Published in Mississippi Medical News

SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION!

Even back in the 1970?s, Daniel (Rudy) Ruettiger was an undersized football player.? Standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 165 pounds, he was a longshot at best to play on Notre Dame?s football team. Through courage and commitment, he made it as a ?walk on? onto the scout squad which helped the varsity team prepare for games.? On November 8, 1975, Coach Dan Devine allowed Rudy in his senior year to dress out with the team for the final game against Georgia Tech.? He only played two plays that day.? One was a kickoff and the other was the final play of the game where he sacked the quarterback.? At the end of the game, Rudy?s teammates carried him off the field. Rudy was only one of two players in Notre Dame history to be carried off the field by his teammates.? This dramatic story was captured in the movie Rudy, and the image of him being carried him off the field is a moving example of showing deep appreciation.

The Challenge: Keeping Good People

While it is unlikely that we will ever parade a co-worker through the office on our shoulders, we do have the opportunity to show appreciation to our employees and co-workers in the workplace. This is not just a ?feel good? exercise, but instead a solid best practice of successful companies. A number of surveys suggest that the number one issue facing business is finding and keeping good employees. High employee turnover can have a direct impact on the bottom line. The costs of turnover include recruiting replacement costs, administrative costs, lost productivity, training, and supervisory time. In fact, experts estimate that the costs of employee turnover average twice an employee?s salary.

The mistake is to assume that if we just throw money at employees that it will ensure that we keep them.? While monetary rewards are nice, the reality is that employees want to feel valued and appreciated in their jobs. In The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White noted that based on extensive research, 89% of managers believed that employees left jobs for more money; however in reality, only 12% of employees actually reported that they resigned over compensation. In a four year analysis of more than 100,000 employees worldwide, the Corporate Leadership Council discovered that while workers ?join companies for rational motives (better compensation, benefits, and career opportunities), they stay and work hard for emotional ones.?

In The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, employee retention expert Leigh Branham noted, ?Everyone wants to feel important, yet many organizations make their people feel quite the opposite. It could be seen as a lack of simple appreciation, or a greater focus on making numbers, and not valuing employees.? The Gallup organization has conducted extensive research based on interviews with more than 17 million people over more than 30 years.? They identified 12 core elements that link directly to critical organizational outcomes. Interestingly, one of the core elements was that, ?employees receive regular recognition or praise for doing good work.? Gallup also found that almost 70% of the employees in the United States say they receive no praise in the workplace.

The Opportunity: Showing Appreciation at Work

Dr. Gary Chapman, best-selling author of The Five Love Languages and Dr. Paul White, a nationally recognized family and business coach, teamed up to write their book to help us understand how we are encouraged in the workplace as well as how to best show appreciation to others. Their book provides the tools, resources, and information to help apply these concepts in a practical way in the workplace.? One of the most compelling aspects of learning to show appreciation in the workplace is that it can be done for very little cost, yet it can accomplish significant results. For those that may think showing appreciation is too ?touchy feely,? the reality is that there is a significant return on time and investment for creating a positive work environment where appreciation is shown.? The key is simply being intentional about how we show appreciation so that we don?t take a ?one size fits all? approach.

In fact, providing the wrong type of appreciation can actually do more harm than good. Chapman pioneered the idea that we all have different communication ?languages.? He has described the five languages as words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts, and physical touch.? Chapman and White have applied and adapted these concepts to the workplace to show how we can better communicate appreciation to our co-workers and employees.? They developed the Motivating by Appreciation (MBA) Inventory to identify your individual language of appreciation.? Purchasers of their book are provided a code to take the test and determine their appreciation language.

We tend to show appreciation based on our own language and not that of those around us.? By taking the time learn the languages of your team, you will be able to much better show them effective and meaningful appreciation.? In today?s economy, it would be foolish to just think, ?Well, my employees should just be thankful they have a job.?? This view is short sighted and misses the point that by taking a little time to show appreciation in the workplace based on individual needs, leaders can create a positive work environment that is more pleasant and productive.

Build a Great Habit

I believe that great companies have great habits.? Being intentional about communicating personalized appreciation is one of those habits.?? It is important to recognize the challenges that can exist to effectively create this great habit.? One of the biggest challenges is the ?tyranny of the urgent? that keeps everyone so busy that they don?t take time to communicate effectively. Don?t let showing appreciation fall into the ?important but not urgent? bucket that never gets done. Take time and be purposeful on this important task. Finally, some people may not feel comfortable showing appreciation.? The more you educate yourself on this important area the more comfortable you will feel.? Also, remember this is not about you, but what you can do for other people.

As the old saying goes, ?nobody cares what you know, until they know that you care.?? I hope that you will consider the value and benefits of making your workplace one in which appreciation is shown.? Remember, even if your whole workplace is not on board with this concept, we each have the opportunity to create a positive impact by starting to show appreciation to those we work with today!

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