A Recipe for Success: The care and feeding of employees


If you were to create a recipe for the ideal manager, what traits would you include? A cup of empathy? A sprig of high standards and excellence? A dash of humor? My friend Cheryl takes the care and feeding of her team seriously. During the implementation of new software, a group of us were on site to assist in the transition. On day one, Cheryl brought in her famous popcorn for everyone. Now you may think popcorn is not a big deal, but Cheryl’s special melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, delicious popcorn made us all raving fans. Day two’s treat was homemade chicken chili. Day three was a taco bar with all the fixings. One staff member told me, “She takes such good care of us; it makes us want to do more for her.” And my fellow trainer, Evelyn, remarked afterward that it was like having Mother Teresa take care of you for a week. You can imagine the tenure of staff in Cheryl’s office. Nobody leaves. Who would want to? Another shining example of taking good care of people is my friend, Cas. To show her appreciation for her staff, she put together a goodie basket filled with chocolate, candy and gum. She delivered handwritten thank you notes to each of her direct reports and had them choose something from the basket. Both Cheryl and Cas exhibit many of the ideas found in one of my favorite management books, Love’Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. Their book is laid out with tips and suggestions from A to Z. Chapter one, the “A” chapter is “Ask.” They surveyed 15,000 people and asked why they stay at their job. Here are the top six responses: 1. Exciting work and challenge 2. Career growth, learning and development 3. Working with great people 4. Fair pay 5. Supportive manager/good boss 6. Being recognized, valued and respected The “L” chapter, “Link,” speaks to number three on the list. Create connections. It’s easy to leave an organization when you don’t feel a connection. The authors tell the story of a senior manager of a public relations firm who gave out $25 lunch “chits” to the 60 employees in the unit with the instructions, “Take someone you don’t know well to lunch and learn more about them and the work they do.” The “T” chapter, “Truth,” advocates for regular, honest feedback. A study from Ohio State’s business school found that in the absence of feedback, pay becomes more important. People magnify the importance of their salary as a way to feel appreciated. In the “U” chapter, the key is “Understand.” The authors suggest listening deeper. Become a better communicator by being quiet and listening. They say, “Silence on our part invites the thoughts and opinions of others.” And what should you be listening for? Listen for input like ideas and solutions. Listen for employees’ motivations. What keeps them coming in to work and doing their job? What excites them? When I coach my clients, I am always listening for the energy in their stories. And I listen for themes. What keeps popping up in our conversations? My friend, Rick Lynch, an author and trainer in Seattle, offers these recognition rules:
  • The recognition should be appropriate to the achievement.
  • It should be consistent.
  • It must be timely.
  • It should be individualized as much as possible.
  • It must be honest.
  • Use a variety of recognition methods.
  • Pay attention to what you want more of.
So, give thought to the care and feeding of your co-workers, your employees and your family. What would be their ideal recipe? What would make them want to do more and more for you? And if you’ve got a killer popcorn recipe, you’re golden.

Tags: care of employees, career

Susan Combs

Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit SusanCombsCoaching.com or MentorRoadmap.com for more information.

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