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From Me to You: The Inside Scoop on Getting Your Employees to Give a Darn.

Truth: I am leaving my job at RecogNation at the end of this month. By the time you read this, someone else will be enjoying my coveted window seat and my almost-new, super-speedy MacBook. Do I hate my job? On the contrary: I love it. But, I have never felt more certain that it is time to move on. For my benefit, and also for the company’s benefit. It’s time for them to bring in a fresh mind, with a fresh perspective. And, it’s time for me to freshen my own mind and perspective.

Being on my way out, I might be tempted to switch to cruise control and, without feet on the gas or clutch, coast into my final weeks. Most coworkers I encounter in the halls ask me if I’m in exit mode and if I’m struggling to stay motivated. I’m not. I’m finding that I care more now than I ever have. (And, I have always cared—a lot.) The common wisdom on this topic is that people either care or they don’t; that caring is a feeling that can’t be influenced. While I do believe it is inherent in me to care, I do know that my level of caring is greatly affected by factors present in my work environment.

Want your people to care more? It is possible. Consider these principles:

Set High Standards. While sometimes it is simply necessary that we not make great the enemy of good, it shouldn’t be an overarching philosophy. Having high expectations trains your people to push themselves harder. If I knew I could go into a meeting and present mediocre writing—and get away with it—what, other than my own drive, would keep me from doing just that? From leadership down to my peers, I have been shown that producing my best work isn’t just a requirement, it’s also a way to gain personal satisfaction. And, that’s a pretty good feeling. When everyone around me is giving their all, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one who stands out because I’m not.           

Empower Ownership. My team and I were fortunate enough to be in at the foundation of building the RecogNation brand. Together, we figured out what our voice would be, what our graphics and imagery would look like, and how we would present ourselves to the public eye. With lots of guidance and support, of course. This brand is our brand: we own it and are responsible for upholding its standards. On top of that, probably the greatest boost to my care meter has been being the sole writer for RecogNation. The blog is, at this time, entirely a representation of my work (and our designers’ too!)—and also a representation of what the brand stands for. Our vision. As a result, I have become savagely protective of it. I am invested in what happens to it after I leave and have made extra effort to ensure that those taking it over are equipped with all the tools, resources, and information to do so. (I’m confident in their abilities, by the way.)    

Cultivate Relationships. For all of my eight years here, I have been surrounded by incredible people. Talented, smart, ambitious, hardworking, funny, warm: they all have inspired me to be the best I can be. I wouldn’t dream of letting one of them down. So I show up, I deliver, I advocate, and I do things that are sometimes inconvenient. I have cried with these people in the bathroom and have laughed with them until whatever it was isn’t even funny anymore. In the absence of this kind of family, I would still care, but I wouldn’t care as passionately. I can’t separate myself from them. There is no vacuum or silo situation. What I do, I do to them as much as myself. It better be good.      

So, here we are. I’ve told you about my personal experiences, but I haven’t told you how to achieve similar results with your own people. As I reflect on how I got to this place, I’ve concluded that these are your action items: 

  • Exemplify the standards you expect from your team. Communicate them not only with words, but with actions. They won’t buy in if they don’t see you putting forth the same, or greater, effort. And, be consistent: don’t be stringent one day and lax the next. At least not without a good explanation.
  • Allow your team members to completely own a project, whether it’s a big one like our brand development or a piece within a larger initiative. Provide leadership, but resist the urge to take over (or, worse, micromanage). People love and will fight for their creations. Don’t forget this; it’s huge.  
  • Commit to hiring people that are a cultural fit—and a fit within a team. Friendships and bonds will form naturally among like-minded, common-goal-seeking individuals. Once this happens, the capacity for caring increases exponentially.

That’s all I have. I’ll be around here a little while longer and you’ll likely see posts written by me for several weeks after. Why? Because I care. 

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you to reach out to the fine people here at RecogNation when you're in need of some guidance in the employee recognition arena. These people really are the best of the best and have all the know-how to help you boost morale, improve engagement, reduce turnover, and create a great place to work. Click here to contact one of them, or call today at 888.919.7600. 

About the Author:

Allison has been a professional writer since 2002, with experience working in a variety of business environments dating back to 1993. Her breadth of knowledge comes from time spent on both the manager and employee sides, as well as her years immersed in the employee recognition industry. As a writer, she insists on the Oxford comma, loves to un-dangle dangling participles, and often indulges in the subjunctive mood. True story.