mpi_logo inc_logo eksandh_logo abc_logo huffpost_live-logo

The Art of Appreciation – Idea #5 of 101 Ways to Better Serve Team Members


One of the deepest human needs is to feel appreciated.  According to William James, in fact, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

When we appreciate others sincerely, we give them something that they may rarely if ever receive in their lives.  We’re providing a wonderful gift.

Appreciating team members for meeting or exceeding expectations for performance or behaving in according with stated values is also one of the simplest ways to boost performance in the workplace.

According to a great article on Business News Daily, research conducted by the HR firm Bersin & Associates suggests that companies that do very well at recognizing employees are about 12 times more likely than their peers to realize positive business outcomes like higher profitability and better market leadership positions.  Also, in companies with strong recognition programs, employee engagement, productivity, and customer service are roughly 14 percent better than in companies that do not reward and recognize employees well.

As an added bonus, when done well, recognizing and appreciating team members costs very little, or nothing at all.

Effective recognition programs ensure that everyone who meets or exceeds expectations is recognized, and that the recognition occurs as close to the time of the achievement as possible.

With one minor addition to the mix, we can make our efforts to recognize team members even more effective.  We can transform appreciation into an art.

In my blog post last week, we discussed the “How can I serve you?” meeting and some of the questions we might ask during that meeting to show a team member that we truly care about her or him, and to gather information that will help us to serve that team member in the future.

An additional question we can ask is, “If you were to do something that I really appreciated and I wanted to thank you for it, what are some ways that you’d like to be appreciated?”

This question is another powerful way to show that we truly care about the person on our team.  It also helps ensure that we offer appreciation in a way that the person would actually like.  This is very important.

Imagine, for instance, that we wanted to recognize a team member, and she is an extreme introvert.  But we just recognize her in the same way we’ve always recognized.  We bring her up in front of the whole team and show her picture and ask her to say a few words.

For an extreme introvert, this might be more like punishment than a reward.  She might much prefer some simple words of appreciation in private and a day off to have some alone time in nature.

In the excellent book The Carrot Principle, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton write, “Perhaps the most difficult portion of the recognition process is choosing a form of recognition that taps into an employee’s motivation triggers.”

When we tailor our efforts to show appreciation to be aligned to each of our team members, we can have a huge impact.  As Gostick and Elton continue, “Among the leaders we have observed who take the time and interest to personalize recognition, it has made all the difference in employee performance.”

One of my favorite examples of really well-thought-out appreciation, based on true understanding of what a team member values, is how my good friend John Spence recognized a team member who valued family more than anything else in her life.

When John wanted to show deep appreciation for her excellent performance, he wrote a letter to her family, describing in detail why their mother / wife was such an amazing human being and such a valuable member of the team.

This may have been the most powerful appreciation she had ever experienced, and likely had a significant impact on her continued performance.  The cost to John and his company was nothing but 10 or 15 minutes of time.

More important than the nice ROI, though, is that both John and the team member received a great deal of fulfillment from that experience, fulfillment they both likely remember to this day.


Please leave me a comment below if you apply these ideas.  I’d love to hear about your experience.


Did you like what you read?  You can sign up here to get all my posts via our free eZine, which is full of great articles on personal and leadership development.  You’ll also get a $15 eBook for free.


Image credit

Skillfully Apply the Question “How Can I Better Serve?” – Idea # 4 of 101 Ways to Better Serve Team Members

how can i serve you

We get to the office.  We’re excited to start the day.  We’re not quite sure where to begin.  What do we do?

Many of us open our e-mail inbox to see what goodies might be awaiting us.  This in and of itself is not a bad thing.  However, how often does that lead to 30 or 60 minutes or more of being stuck in “e-mail land”?

Most productivity gurus recommend not opening e-mail until after we’ve taken time to reflect on the top two or three things we really want to get done – things that could make a big impact – and taking action on them.

I believe that one of those things should be taking time to reflect on how we can better serve the people on our team, however that’s defined for us.  I have this on my calendar as the first thing I do every day.

There is a lot of value to taking 10-15 minutes or so each day to reflect on the question, “How can I better serve?”  It gets us in a great state of mind to start the day, and it can often lead to new ideas for better serving the people on our teams.

To make this time even more valuable, we should make sure we have a “How I can serve you?” meeting with everyone on our team.

A “How I can serve you?” meeting is simply taking around 30 minutes to sit down with a team member and ask them questions that allow us to learn what’s important to them.

We should ask questions like:

  • What’s most important to you in your life right now in terms of what you have in your life?
  • What’s most important to you in your life right now in terms of who you are as a person?
  • What are your top three personal goals for this year, and for five years from now?
  • What are your top three professional goals for this year within our organization?
  • What are your top three professional goals for the next five years, whether with us or not?

The person may not have the answers off the top of her head, but just asking these questions shows that we actually care about her.  For those that need more time to consider, we can ask that written answers be submitted in a few days.

In addition to showing a team member that we care about him, there are two other significant benefits to “How I can serve you?” meeting:

  1. The team member may have never considered these questions before. When he does, he’ll likely get great clarity on his life, and he’ll be thankful for your help with that.
  2. Once we have written answers to the questions above, we’ll have plenty of things to consider during the time we spend reflecting each day on how we can better serve. Reviewing the answers will give us ideas for how we could help or, at a minimum, reminders to check up on progress with a caring intention.

The best time to have a “How I can serve you?” meeting is during the onboarding process.  This can be a great addition to the other tools you employ to help a new team member feel very welcomed and cared for.

But we can have a “How I can serve you?” meeting any time, with any team member, regardless of how long he or she has been with us.  It’s never too late to take our servant leadership game to a higher level.  In fact, it’s a good idea to have the meeting at least annually to keep abreast of the normal changes in priorities for the people on our teams.

Please leave me a comment below if you apply these ideas.  I’d love to hear about your experience.


Did you like what you read?  You can sign up here to get all my posts via our free eZine, which is full of great articles on personal and leadership development.  You’ll also get a $15 eBook for free.

Image credit

Why Your Opinion Sucks: And Mine Does, Too


My friend, the purpose of this post is to simply demonstrate why your opinion sucks.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not alone.

My opinion sucks, too.

I actually don’t have anything against your opinion. What I would like to demonstrate is that all opinions suck.

Or, more precisely, I’d like to suggest that attaching to any opinion is unskillful and will result in less than optimal outcomes in both our personal and professional lives.

It’s Natural to Form Opinions

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t have opinions. I’m not sure that would even be possible.

The formation of opinions is a very natural part of being human. When we perceive something through our senses, the brain naturally starts classifying what we perceive and putting it into categories.

It probably starts in the reptile brain with classifications like “threat or not a threat,” “food or not food,” or “potential mate or not a potential mate.”

And, before we know it, we add on some variation of, “I like this,” or “I don’t like this.”

There is no problem up to this point.

The Problem Is Attachment

The problems start when we attach to our opinions – when we become our opinions or allow our opinions to become a part of us.

There are telltale signs of when this happens.

One sign is that if someone shares an opinion contrary to our own, we’ll notice some type of emotional response in our bodies. We might feel anger and want to defend our opinion.

If we experience an emotion like anger when someone expresses an opinion contrary to ours, we immediately become less effective.

Our decision-making ability is diminished. People don’t want to be around us. And, we experience harmful physical consequences like the ones described in this article.


This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.  To continue reading, please click here.

Expect Excellence – Idea # 3 of 101 Ways to Better Serve Team Members


For those of us who aspire to be a servant leader who truly cares about team members, it can be easy to fall victim to the tendency to be overly accepting of mediocre work because we want to be “nice.”

Although being kind and compassionate towards others is an essential trait of being a servant leader, accepting mediocrity is not.

Accepting anything less than excellence is actually a failure to serve others.

When we accept mediocre work from a team member, we actually do him a terrible disservice.  We are enabling him to stop growing and, even worse, to think that mediocrity is acceptable.  Thus, we prevent him from advancing within our organization, and we set him up for failure should he move to another organization one day.

Also, when we accept mediocre work from one team member, we tell everyone else on the team that mediocrity is okay.  This can crush motivation and create inertia.  As team performance declines, mediocrity can spread like a disease.

This is a disservice to the entire team.  No one gets excited about being on a team that sucks.

A servant leader works to help team members grow both personally and professionally, and to reach their full potential.

To assist in this process, there are several things we can do.

1.  We should involve the team member in the goal setting process. We could allow her to consider what would be some goals that are challenging, and set goals that we both agree would be examples of excellence.

2.  We should make sure that any expectations we have – whether created by us or co-created with the team member – are crystal clear. There must be a clear vision of what success looks like.

The clearest expectations are binary.  They either are achieved, or not achieved.  This eliminates subjectivity and ambiguity.

3.  We need to let team members know that they will be held accountable to the expectations set, and that not holding them accountable would be a disservice to them and the team for the reasons mentioned above.

4.  We need to make sure the team member has everything she needs to meet expectations.

5.  We should be firm about not expecting anything less than excellence.

6.  We should celebrate every single example of excellence.

What are some tools that you employ to create a culture of excellence on your team?


Did you like what you read?  You can sign up here to get all my posts via our free eZine, which is full of great articles on personal and leadership development.


Image credit:

Catch People Doing Things Right – Idea # 2 of 101 Ways to Better Serve Team Members

catch people doing things right

As we near Thanksgiving Day this year, which  reminds us to be grateful, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a gentle reminder to show our gratitude for the people on our teams.

According to my good friend John Spence, named one of the top 100 business thought leaders by Trust Across America, if team members don’t receive genuine, specific appreciation for a period of 7-10 days, their engagement levels decrease noticeably.

A simple way to keep engagement levels higher is to make sure we show appreciation as frequently as possible.

Some leaders hear this and think that they should put a note on their calendar to go around appreciating people for whatever they notice.  But that is not likely to be very effective.

A better approach is to create a new habit of mind – a habit of catching people doing things right.

Although simple, this is certainly not easy.  The human brain is naturally hardwired to pay more attention to what’s wrong than to what’s right.  This was pretty important for us as a species for quite some time back in the day when we had to be constantly on the lookout for animals that could eat us.

With practice though, we can improve.  And it could start by noticing little things that you appreciate.

You could make a note on your calendar to take 2 or 3 opportunities to observe team members and look for things you appreciate about their work, or about how they’re living the values of your organization.

You could make a new habit of simply asking in your mind, “What’s right about this?” when reviewing a team member’s work or behavior.

You could have a brief weekly meeting that starts with pointing out something positive you’ve noticed for each person in attendance.

You could make a commitment to celebrate all goals achieved, not just goals exceeded.

Gradually, we want to create a habit that allows us to be on the lookout for people doing things right so that we never miss an opportunity to show a team member genuine, specific appreciation for work or behaviors that we’d like to see more of.

What are some of the ways that you’ve found helpful for showing genuine, specific appreciation every 7-10 days?


Image Credit –

6 Tools for Creating High Performance Teams

great team

The world is replete with organizations with great strategies. But how many of those great strategies are actually executed?

Less than 15%. That’s the number that John Spence shared with me when we spoke recently.

John is the author Awesomely Simple, and an executive trainer and coach who has worked as a trusted advisor with numerous Fortune 500 companies over the last 20 years.

When we spoke, we discussed what he’s noticed about organizations that are very successful at building and sustaining high performance teams that effectively execute strategies.

Following are the highlights from our discussion. (If you’d like to watch the video of the interview, click here.)

John’s advice is to focus on creating and sustaining a winning workplace culture. If we get the culture right, we can create the conditions for excellent execution.

My discussion with John revealed 6 powerful, easily-actionable ideas for creating and sustaining a culture of high performance.

1. People need to feel safe in the workplace.

Of course, people need to know that they’re physically safe. But they also need to know that they are emotionally and psychologically safe.

A winning culture must include an environment where people know that they will not be attacked emotionally, and they need to know that they can openly and safely share ideas.

2. People need to feel that they belong to something that matters.

As humans, we naturally seek out something bigger than ourselves to belong to. We can help fulfill this deep, human need by creating a workplace where people are inspired by the work we do, and can see how their work is tied to the big picture.

Knowing how important this sense of belongingness is, when taking on new team members, we should also pay close attention to whether or not a person would be a good fit for our culture. If a person doesn’t feel that they fit in, they could quickly become disengaged.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.  To continue reading, please click here.

Know People’s Names – Idea # 1 of 101 Ways to Better Serve Team Members

my name is

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see Tom Gardner, CEO at The Motley Fool, talk about some of the ways that this multimedia financial-services company has built such an incredible workplace culture.

One of my favorite examples was a simple idea the leaders had a few years ago.

Up to this point in time, the annual bonus that employees received was based on performance metrics. The leaders decided to make a change. They announced that 20% of the annual bonus would be based on a challenge.

The challenge was this: each employee had to be able name every other employee. They would be tested online via a simple app that showed the face of an employee, and tested one’s ability to name the person.

At the time, The Motley Fool employed 250 people. So, of course, there was a lot of kickback. People complained that it wasn’t fair that a significant portion of their bonus would be dependent on the abilities of other people.

The leaders held their ground though. Once people realized that this was a reality, they got to work.

When the end of the fiscal year approached – appropriately it’s April 1st for The Motley Fool – everyone in the company had passed the test except for one person.  In the typical “fool” fashion that is part of the culture at the company, the person asked for free lunches and other kickbacks in exchange for completing the test.   After having his fun, he too passed the test.

The results of the experiment that year were fantastic. People across all departments got to know each other, which led to greater collaboration, teamwork, and innovation.

As leaders, we should make it a habit to learn the names of others as quickly as possible. I find it helpful to apply this habit to everyone, not just team members.

Whenever I see a person for a second time, even if I haven’t interacted with her, I ask her her name. I presume that if I’ve seen her twice, I’ll probably see her again. When I do, I much prefer to call her by name, which immediately deepens our interaction.

Making the effort to know the names of everyone in our organization, even if they aren’t on our team, is a simple yet powerful way to build influence with others.

The most powerful example of this I’ve ever seen was when I was stationed with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, at Camp Pendleton, California. The regimental commander was an exemplary leader named Colonel Paxton.

Depending on deployment cycles, Colonel Paxton was in charge of anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 Marines at any one time. He had unbelievable ability to remember not only the names of even the lowest ranking Marines, but often times details about their lives.

I’ll never forgot the example I witnessed of Colonel Paxton approaching a relatively new private first class. After exchanging salutes, Colonel Paxton asked something along the lines of, “Hi Michael, how’s your wife Sarah and your baby?”

The Marine was shocked. For private first class in a Marine infantry unit, a full Colonel might as well be God. This Colonel actually remembered his name, and that of his wife.

It was clear that the Marine felt as though he was truly loved. His shoulders pulled back, his chest pushed out, and he stood so tall that he seemed to grow two inches taller.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look more proud to be part of an organization than that Private First Class.


Did you like what you read?  To sign up for our free e-Zine and receive a free e-Book, as well as all my posts, click here.


great ideas

Although CEO and founder of tech company TINYPulse David Niu is considered a successful serial entrepreneur, things weren’t always smooth sailing for him.

On paper everything seemed to be going smashingly with Niu’s first startup, BuddyTV. He was even able to secure $10 million in VC funding for the company. But Niu quickly realized that he was burning out; he simply wasn’t passionate about his work anymore. Around this time he also got married and had a baby girl in quick succession.

Niu told his team he was going to step down. He decided to sell everything he owned and take a trip around the world with stops in numerous cities.

He had two goals:

  • Have great quality time with his wife and daughter Interview as many successful entrepreneurs as possible who were not in the tech space about leadership and workplace cultures
  • The results of his journey around the world included great memories with his family and a world-class education from successful entrepreneurs.

Here are the top four lessons he learned as the result of his unlikely journey:


Although we certainly want to bring talented people on our teams, it is even more important that we find people who share our values. If values aren’t aligned, the relationship we have with someone is almost guaranteed to be a rough one, and will likely end quickly.

It can be quite costly to have someone on the team who does not share the team values. Such a person can be like poison for the other team members, costing us productivity. Eventually, we will likely have to replace the person and incur the cost of rehiring.

Niu learned a great tool for ensuring values alignment of new hires from a CEO in Seoul, Korea. This CEO uses very precise interview questions to ensure that a new hire shares the same values as his team.

His team asks every candidate to explain situations where they lived the team’s core values. If a candidate is unable or unwilling to answer each question satisfactorily, she or he is not offered a position, regardless of how talented she or he is.


This article was published by Fast Company.   To read the entire article, please click here.

What a Homeless Man Taught Me About Success

As I stepped out onto the street in downtown Philadelphia, I felt invigorated by the cool, crisp morning air. My senses were extra alive that morning. I had just spent most of the previous three hours sitting absolutely still with my eyes closed at a mindfulness retreat led by my good friend and mentor, Michael Carroll.
We had a short lunch break from the retreat. I was heading back to my hotel to grab a bite of the food I had packed.
Due to my heightened senses, everything seemed to glow with beauty in the bright morning sun. The gentle breeze, although chilly, made me smile.
About midway between the retreat center and my hotel, I approached a large man wearing a green winter coat who was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a MacDonald’s.
It appeared as though he had slept outdoors. It also appeared as though he had too much to drink the previous night. He still smelled of alcohol and he had some dried vomit on the front of his green jacket.
I greeted the man with a smile as I approached. He returned my greeting and he smiled, too.
After exchanging a few words, he asked, “By any chance would you be able to get me a hamburger from MacDonald’s?”
This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.  To continue reading, please click here.