Mar 122012

(c) Disney

Every day I come across something that someone does well. It may be something as small as keeping my water glass full at a restaurant or a teacher going out of their way to help my child understand a difficult concept. I have been trying to remember to thank people for the good things they do. I was reminded how important this is after reading a blog post by Michael Smith on not waiting for a eulogy to say nice things.

I am often too quick to criticize  and slow to praise, when it should be the reverse. As a manager of a team at work, this has rested heavily on my mind lately. My responsibility is to make sure everyone is operating at peak effectiveness and all the blocks to their success are removed. Sometimes these blocks can be simply not feeling appreciated or understood.

I am a big believer in the Manager Tools method of giving feedback. It is the Manager Tools’ team belief (and mine as well) one of the biggest reasons people are unhappy in their work is due to not get enough feedback, negative AND positive. We all just want to know how we are doing. The challenge for managers is to make sure everyone hears almost daily on the good things they do or how to correct the little things needing improvement.

Feedback doesn’t have to be difficult or grandiose. A couple simple sentences is all it takes. Describe the behavior and its impact. That’s all. “When you make sure the paper gets to my front porch instead of the front walk, I find it easier to get it and enjoy reading the news at breakfast instead of later in the day, if at all. Keep it up! Thank you.” When I received this simple praise as a paperboy years ago, I made sure the paper was where my customer could get it without having to walk more than a couple steps out the front door.

Taking a few seconds to compliment someone for good work is so easy. Don’t take it for granted they will always be there another time. A few simple words can change a whole day. Too often, we are isolated in our own worlds and wonder if anyone notices at all. A few encouraging words can change more than we could ever imagine.

We need to take time to thank people for the good job they do. In the Disney movie, “Bambi”, Thumper’s mother reminds him “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” The reverse is true as well. If you can say something nice, say it immediately. See what happens.

Feb 032012

My son and I were discussing something he noticed the other day. He said he had been getting to the lunch line first lately and had been able to talk with the Lunch Lady while she finished setting up the line. Since he has been doing that, he has discovered she has been slipping him extra cookies and other little “bonuses”. He was puzzled and actually challenged her on it. She just smiled and told him to not worry about it. He was concerned that he was getting something he wasn’t paying for and didn’t know what he should do.

I experienced the same phenomena back in high school. I made it a point of giving my Lunch Ladies feedback when something tasted especially good or bad. I always raved when something was especially delightful. It wasn’t long before extra cookies or peanut butter treat would appear on my tray. One day, as I was tossing my tray from the potato bar in the trash, one of the Ladies saw me. She was horrified that I had chosen the potato bar over her special Chinese lunch. She had me come back into the kitchen and have another lunch, complete with almond cookie, so that I could give her my critique.

A little kindness can go a long way in this world. I have never found it wrong to smile and thank those who give me good service. The more I treat these people with respect, the greater respect I receive from them. I have found this especially true in those often unthanked positions, such as police, librarians and, of course, the Lunch Lady.

Of course, false gratitude in the attempt to gain special favor doesn’t go far. I had a friend who was jealous of my extra cookie. After explaining how I ended up with it, he went up to her, mumbled something that sounded like a compliment and then asked if he could have another cookie. It didn’t work. Faking it doesn’t cut it, folks.

Take a moment and share a smile and a heartfelt “thank you” with someone under-appreciated today. We love our Lunch Ladies!

Jan 312012

Please never miss an opportunity to do the right thing. I ran across this story today. Bill Gates wrote a letter to Steve Jobs before he died. It touched Steve so much, he kept it next to his bed to the end, according to his wife. I am glad Bill didn’t disclose what he wrote in the letter. It wasn’t for us.

I told Steve about how he should feel great about what he had done and the company he had built. I wrote about his kids, whom I had got to know.

Do you have a friend feeling down, sick or just in need of a virtual hug? Write them a quick note. It doesn’t have to be much. Four short lines are more than enough to let them know you care. Who knows how much it will mean to them?

C’mon. Do it right now. I am.