The Power of Thanks

People have a deep need to feel that they matter. As leaders, we have a unique opportunity to let them know that they do.

Recognizing and celebrating the people in our organization for their goodness is not only the right thing to do, it is one of our fundamental leadership values.  Most people come to work every day and wonder, “Does anyone know what I do around here?  Does anyone care?”  Oh, to be recognized for a job well done!

Richard Pike (pictured here), an inspector at our HayssenSandiacre subsidiThe-Power-of-Thanksary near Greenville, South Carolina, helped show us the power of recognition to allow our team members to feel valued, and to know that they matter.  Richard was one of the first winners of our foremost recognition program.  In this program, team members nominate their peers as great examples of leadership in our culture.  They have the opportunity to celebrate the everyday greatness in those that they work with day in and day out.

These are no ordinary events.  The entire organization gathers for elaborately planned celebrations designed to make the winner feel honored for his or her contributions to our culture. When Richard’s name was announced, he was shocked. During the event he was awarded the keys to a unique sports car which he drove for a week. Unlike a plaque for his desk, Richard had the chance to drive his “trophy” for a week, inviting questions from his family, friends and neighbors about why he had this unusual car.  Richard had the chance to explain how he was recognized as a leader at work, to which most people respond, “Wow, I wish I worked for a company like that.”

Richard was touched by the thoughtful celebration and the prizes. However, what meant the most to him  were the comments shared by his team members—people he had worked side-by-side with for years—on the nomination forms and during the celebration event. He never dreamed that people considered him a leader. When I asked Richard one year later how it felt to be a winner of this award, he said, “Now I come in every day and try to be the person they think I am.”

Richard’s teammates recognized his goodness. They made him see that his contributions truly matter.

Historically in business, we have been quick to let people Twice I did well, that I heard never; once I did ill, that I heard ever. Click To Tweetknow what they did wrong. We’re all familiar with this adage: Twice I did well, that I heard never; once I did ill, that I heard ever. Traditional management teaches us to look for the errors or exceptions, to look for opportunities to improve.  When challenged with a new way of thinking–to focus on catching people doing things right–most managers respond, “Why would I thank them for doing their job? That’s what they are paid to do.”

Recognition is a hot topic these days in management circles.  There are plenty of articles out there telling you how you can use it to get more out of your team members.  If you simply use it as another management tactic, you’ll never experience its true value:  knowing that you’ve touched the life of another person.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

5 Comments

  • Rickie says:

    Hey everyone . I am from Trinidad and Tobago. When I read stories like these I wonder is this for real. We dont experience that kind of appreciation here.
    Yet so many of us goes to work and feel so unhappy,become unproductive and remain unfulfilled.
    I salute the leadership team for sustain the lives of its employees.
    I believe in the power of the word and when employees have good things to say about their organization that in itself is a compounding value that must be given consideration.
    All the very best to you and your team. Hopefully others will catch on.

  • Tony Lucas says:

    When I first read the article in the May 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine celebrating your company’s uniqueness it is no surprise that your company is a leader in business and industry. The actual practice of your leadership and culture is refreshing and very relatable to me and those of us who understand the old adage; People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Actually, to cut to the meat of the matter, what your group exemplifies is the child-likeness that is buried in each of us screaming to find its way out. Look closely, if we were to transform the culture you have created into a person it would resemble a vibrant, energetic and happy child. And since all of us once lived in this place this “permission” enlivens a certain freedom that we are taught to grow away from. It allows those who are in the warm hands of this environment to be a little more of themselves, the ones that most of the human race learn to forget over time. Socrates said, Learning is remembering. The truth of the matter is overall in our society we have learned to be too grown for our own good. Steven Jobs once said that something does not have to change the world for it to be important. Well thank God for your vision, sacrifice and perseverance you have changed many worlds. I will pose a question: How many seeds are in an apple? Who knows, we can cut one open and count them, right? The bigger question is, how many apples are in a seed? Thank you for what you are doing for the countless worlds in our universe. Humanity needs to see that the light is really a light. Again, Thank you

    Tony Lucas
    ToRo International

  • Greg L Williams says:

    I had an opportunity to meet Richard Pike this week and hear how the recognition that he received truly changed his life. As Bob mentioned in his blog, Richard goes to work every day trying to be the person that his colleagues think he is (and I think he really is that person) – he feels a responsibility to “be the message” each and every day. Barry-Wehmiller’s recognition process is not a management tactic or some form of manipulation, it is genuine recognition for living and advancing the culture.

  • @michpoko says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always been inspired by the incredible celebrations that are part of recognition at Barry-Wehmiller. What is most impressive is how personalized they are… ensuring they are meaningful, involving family when possible. This is right in line with what a recent study we conducted revealed. What is meaningful and motivating is personal, and different depending on your personal values. A link to a post on these study and some insights here: http://www.maritzmotivationsolutionsblog.com/?p=426

    One other thing we are focused on is the language used, literally what we recognize and the word we use. When well crafted, recognition can be even more than thanks, but can help support a growth mindset – another leadership imperative. Keep recognizing and celebrating the wonderful work, effort and contributions of others!

    • Bob Chapman says:

      Michelle: We teach the importance of recognition and celebration in our Leadership Fundamentals course in Barry-Wehmiller University (BWU), our internal learning institute. We have found that those practices are as vital to effective leadership as they are to good parenting. People desperately want to know they matter and taking the time to recognize team members daily is critical to making them know that they do! I don’t ever remember having been exposed to this thinking during my undergraduate or graduate programs in business but it is one of our most highly rated classes in BWU.

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