“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless” Mother Teresa
When leaders successfully create work environments where employees feel valued, they create a more capable workforce willing to share their full potential with the organization.
Last summer we wrote about Clifford Taulbert and his leadership book titled, The 8 Habits of the Heart (Taulbert, 1999). He identified the responsibility of each leader to ensure employees felt equally valued for the contributions made to the organization. To support this notion, there is a growing awareness that this type of recognition is often rated higher by employees than the more commonly used performance incentives like pay raises or bonuses. To deliver these messages to employees, Taulbert explained the importance of increasing our ability to build and nurture authentic relationships.
Leading from the heart is not a new approach to employee engagement but it does appear to be a challenge for many leaders.
Enter, marketing researcher and author Dr. Robert Ciladini, who states that our ability to understand the factors that influence behaviour is “surprisingly poor.” For that reason, it should come as no surprise that organizational leadership commonly miss simple opportunities to engage and motivate their employees.
Reinforcing the message that “everyone matters” requires a strong commitment to building more meaningful relationships to develop a deeper understanding of our employees’ needs and behaviours. Ciladini has identified 6 Principles of Influence but the main focus of today’s blog is on the first principle of reciprocity for three key reasons-
- Taulbert identified a Nurturing Attitude as the foundational habit of a great leader-supporting others by selflessly sharing your time for their benefit (only). The belief being that nurturing quality relationships, supports the creation of quality environments that then produce quality outcomes and performance (see note on A.I below).
- Individual leader can begin practicing simple gifts immediately and will likely see the results of their actions.
- It is an effective no cost or low cost option that is simple to implement.
Principle #1: Reciprocation
To reciprocate, is an exchange where something of equal or similar value is mutually given and returned. This principle states that when individuals reciprocate, it generates a feeling of indebtedness that drives a desire to do something in return. According to Ciladini, the most important part of applying this principle is to be the person who initiates the exchange.
We then challenge you to initiate the reciprocity process but forget the expectation of receiving anything in return for your efforts and instead take the simple gifts approach taken from Reid Hoffman’s book, The Start-Up of You, “if you set out to help others…simply because you think it’s the right thing to do, you will rapidly reinforce your own reputation and expand your universe of possibilities.”
Below are a handful of our favourite small gift ideas to help you to practice reciprocity and build deeper relationships—beginning today! (#3 is our favourite)
- A real smile-self explanatory.
- The Benefit of the Doubt-Trust is an incredibly powerful gift that you can offer to your team of employees. In last month’s post we shared the spiritual Karma Law of Cause and Affect which reminded us of the value we create for ourselves when we build trusting relationships.
- Take Time to Listen- A few days ago, actor Shia Leboeuf took part in an interesting Performance Art installation on an elevator lift at Oxford. Whether or not you are a fan is not the discussion point, the true leadership value was his willingness to be vulnerable while connecting with his community in a way that was creative and accessible. An inspiring way to elevate your leadership.
4. Demonstrate Patience- We have all experienced difficult days and times that have impacted on or limited our performance. Building deeper relationships helps us to also develop more empathy for our employees. If employee behaviour or performance is changing, being patient and taking time to understand is a much better alternative than attempting to force compliance.
5. Authentic Recognition and Appreciation- A special note about employee reward programs…great when equally valued by employees but a waste of time and money otherwise. Delivering a handwritten note of thanks for a job well done is a simple and meaningful way of demonstrating appreciation. If coupling a note with a gift try to consider your employees personal values, likes or interests that will demonstrate the emotion behind the recognition. Don’t fake it, ask around or eat regularly with your team to get to know them.
6. Offer Words of Encouragement. Creating endless echoes from the simple habit of sharing encouraging words with your employees sounds awesome—it worked for Mother Teresa.
7. Laughter is the Best Medicine. There is plenty of time to be serious when running an organization but leaders who value laughter will find it easier to break down barriers and form deeper connection—Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach that focuses on identifying what works , why it works and then doing more to multiply the positive effects. Building an organizational culture that values laughter and happiness in the workplace sounds like an incredible gift to offer any employee. Sometimes the only thing left to do is to laugh…
Please feel free to share and engage with us by jumping into this conversation, sharing your own simple gift ideas and especially your success stories! Oh and if anyone wants to take over the company elevator for a day…please let us know!
Here is a great blog post by author John Stepper about leading with generosity (by offering some simple gifts) The Corporate Bathroom Test