Simple Compliments

Last Friday I was asked to conduct a three-hour training session for our entire leadership team, which is about 140 hours.  It is part of an annual Leadership event that encompasses all levels from supervisors and managers up to the CEO.   I’ve done a lot of training sessions, and have worked with all of the levels, but to provide a singular message that represented about 75% of the days’training had me a little stressed.

I was worried about the quality of the videos that I shot and edited.  I was worried that too many people might think the targets of performance and behavior I was suggesting for the organization were too aggressive.  I believe any time a person puts themselves out there just a little too far as they urge the organization forward one of two things can happen:  either their stock rises or it falls.  People either get more aligned with your goals, or your can lose some support and momentum.

At this point in my career, I’m not worried about promotions, so it’s more about making sure that I leverage these opportunities to gain momentum on our Lean Transformation journey.  I felt like this training and the corresponding message, if successful, would take us to the next level on our performance improvement efforts regarding our Lean Management System.

If  you imagine a three hour seminar on metrics and leading effective team meetings (or huddles, as we call them),  you can understand why i was a little worried, because those were my topics.   To top it off, I had been battling a cold that had just gotten progressively worse all week, but was just starting to improve.

It’s one thing for my team and close co-workers to tell me they’re sure I’ll do a good job.  But the point of this long background story is that sometimes a simple, polite comment can do wonders for someone.  At our first break, which was 2 hours into my material, someone at the table in front of me looked at me and said “has it been two hours already?  Man, you really keep this stuff interesting, with the speed of your words, your timing, and your clear diction.  This is really good.”

I said thanks and mentioned I was a little nervous since I hadn’t been feeling well, and the response was “I wouldn’t have known other than the four cups of hot tea…”

The COO and a colleague that organizes the training session both provided very positive feedback as well.   So I was a little more at ease when i went into the most challenging part of the message, which was about changing our questions as leaders; about letting our staff occasionally work to learn the answer to questions we might already know as part of their development.

It seemed to go well, and I was pleased that the CEO had incorporated some of my message into his closing remarks and system update.  Then, as we were cleaning up, one of the managers stopped and said thank you.  He mentioned that he could listen to me for hours – I was just so interesting and seemed so knowledgeable.  He was amazed that I seemed to have really good suggestions when people asked questions.

This was a manager I don’t consider as being “on board” with my vision for the organization.  But the small comments from just a few people really helped me through the day and boosted my confidence.  I also think it eliminated my worry over the weekend, allowing me to focus instead of getting well for next week.

Never underestimate the power of a small compliment.  When organizations talk about motivating teams, sometimes they turn to financial incentives.  This is usually only short-lived in my experience, and also has the potential to lower intrinsic motivation.  But the simple act of giving someone a sincere compliment, or even just saying “thank you”, can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Give someone a compliment today.  Maybe the girl at Starbucks, or the grocery store, or better yet, someone at your place of work.  It really might change their day, and I bet it makes you feel better too.

 

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