When someone says “Well done!” or “Thank you so much!” do you think or say “It was nothing” or “I was just doing my job”? Worse, when your staff do something well do you think or say “they were just doing their job, it’s what I pay them for”? Think about it – what does it cost to say “Thank you”?
Business owners often ask me about linking bonuses and other financial rewards to employee performance, along with questions about how to get staff to do what’s important. Ask someone if they want more money and they’ll say “yes”. Ask someone what would motivate them and many will say “more money!”. But repeated studies have shown that beyond a level necessary to get the basics in life, more money does not actually provide much motivation. In fact it can leave people feeling confused and dissatisfied – they thought they wanted more money, they get it, but don’t feel happier.
When it comes to rewarding staff I strongly recommend starting with “Thank you”. But as the old saying goes, it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it. If you frequently say “thanks” and sound like you neither mean it nor care, you severely devalue your gratitude currency. I find a lot of people are extremely challenged by the idea that they should really give genuine praise for someone who is “just doing their job”. And typically those same people are even harder on themselves, refusing to recognise their own successes, ignoring the 90% successes and focusing instead on the 10% need for improvement.
When we show gratitude to others, and to ourselves, the game changes. When the gratitude is genuinely felt, and generously given, it’s far more valuable than money. And curiously when we give gratitude to others, we feel better ourselves, because the very act of recognising good in someone else has that effect. This may all seem a bit soft in relation to business, but while we use human beings to achieve our business goals it’s important to recognise that treating them like machines is unlikely to gain the best results.
So please allow me to pass along three suggestions:
1) Count how many times in a day you say a genuine “thank you” in some form to those around you. And keep count of the number of times you criticise or nitpick, whether in words or just a certain look that conveys your lack of approval. You might be shocked at how the latter outweighs the former. Aim to set the balance so that you’re grateful twice as often as critical. If you can do it, you’ll be surprised that the result is that you have less and less reason to be critical.
2) When you see a job done satisfactorily, even with some room for improvement, focus on highlighting the positive aspect and say nothing about the imperfection. There’s a time and a place to train people into improving, and when that time arrives, ask THEM what they think they could improve rather than you saying it. It achieves better results and doesn’t feel to the other person like you’re criticising.
3) When someone does something particularly poorly, you probably take them aside to say how disappointed you are and highlight what they did wrong. Be sure to do the opposite as well. Rather than just saying “thanks”, take them aside and highlight what they did well and tell them how pleased you are.
Let me know how it goes. I’ll be grateful to hear of your successes!