Did you ever notice how easy it is to get through the day and really not say much to other people? Sure, you engage. There’s work to be done. Niceties are exchanged. And at the end of the day, did you really connect with anyone… really?
In my history, I’ve worked as the HR Director at Whole Foods (NorPac Region), I’ve worked with senior leadership at AAA and Pride Institute doing Organization Development, and I’ve been the interim director of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done and marvel at the experiences I’ve had. And that list isn’t complete by any means.
There’s one job I had that taught me a lot. I ran a locked psychiatric facility for five and a half years. I learned a lot about management. I learned a lot about leadership. And I learned a lot about myself. (I can apologize to my team now. I’ve learned so much since that time a couple decades ago, I think I was an adequate leader, but not a great leader.)
Here’s one practice I picked up, though. It’s something that stuck with me and made me a better manager and a better leader. (Management and Leadership are different skills used in different ways.) I had 120 staff members and I needed to connect. I was so busy managing details and setting a path to lead, that I worried I’d lose the human touch.
I made a habit of keeping six pennies in my right pants pocket. The goal was to give six compliments, true compliments each day. There were no throw-away “nice job” kind of things allowed. I had to see someone doing something that was aligned with the direction we wanted to go – whether that was patient care or being supportive of a team member – the goal was to see something good and say something about it.
You’ve probably jumped ahead and determined that with each compliment I gave, I’d move one penny from my right pants pocket to the left. And the goal was to give six compliments each day, moving one penny at a time.
I had 120 team members – I repeat that here because there were times that I’d finish up the day and still have two pennies in my right pants pocket. I’d consider that day a “failure” of sorts. How could I have that many people I work with and not have noticed something… six somethings… that someone, anyone did right or well or not bad.
The failing wasn’t on my team’s part. They were the ones keeping the facility running. I was “just” the administrator. How could I miss something that I was certain was right in front of me?
The answer is that I stopped looking.
And with that, here’s your challenge. Yes, we’re working remotely these days. And you still have video calls. You see or talk with or hear about things from your friends and family. It all counts.
It ALL counts.
Take six of something (pennies, buttons, little candies, whatever) and find a friend, family member, or coworker to give a genuine compliment to.
Not, “I like your shoes.” I mean, that’ll work and it’s a “nice” thing to say. And what’ll go farther is if you say something like, “Hey, I noticed the way you spoke with that customer/handled that task/etc. and I thought it was great.” You can throw in a “thank you” if they did it for you.
People want to know that what they’re working on matters and that they work they’re doing is acknowledged. A quick compliment that tells them you saw them and that it mattered goes a long way.
And this exercise will give a new meaning to “A penny for your thoughts”
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See you here next week!
~ Dr P ~