I used to have a team member that was a tough nut to crack. Have you ever had one of those? I would go into our monthly one-on-one ready with feedback, but no matter what I said, I got the feeling I wasn’t getting through to him. Other team members would leave a glowing one-on-one motivated and invigorated, but he would always leave them the same way: with a nod and an, “Alrighty.”
He stumped me, to be honest.
I just wanted to let him know how much I appreciated his work!
It took me years to finally crack him until, one night, I secretly had dessert sent to the table during a night out with his spouse, celebrating their anniversary.
Now, this quite literally cost me $8. And it took five minutes, if that, to call and do. But by his reaction, you would’ve thought I had called in the Queen of England herself to deliver the dessert. He was blown away and, when he eventually moved on to a new job, made a point to say that was one of the most touching things anyone had ever done for him and that he would always remember it.
It was an important lesson for me as a leader, and one that we cover in far greater detail in this month’s cover feature, The New Golden Rule of Leadership.
The new golden rule, as you might expect, is to treat others as they would like to be treated. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it’s really anything but. First, it requires getting to know your employees on a personal level. That’s easy enough when you only have a couple employees, but when you’ve got more than 10, or even multiple locations? Now it’s a bigger undertaking. Perhaps more importantly, getting to know your employees requires truly listening and observing their unique tendencies.
With my former employee, for example, I probably should’ve noticed that he always brought in candy or a handwritten card when other teammates had a life event. He consistently exhibited thoughtfulness in those little acts of service.
It’s a constant pursuit, sure, but has nearly a direct ROI: You’ll get more out of your employees and they’ll almost certainly feel more valued and understood. I can say that even though the team member in my example eventually moved on, just knowing that he might tell someone, “She was a great boss; she ‘got’ me”, is enough to keep putting in the effort.
This year has pushed us all. We’re all on edge, a little worse for the wear. There’s no better time to nail expressing to someone that they’re valued and appreciated.