40. Reward The Deserving

The Kentucky Derby was supposed to run last week. That’s normally one of my favorite days of the year. I invite friends over to watch the race, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and sip on mint juleps. It’s probably the only time in the year I get to use the word muddle. I muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass before I pour the mint julep. We sip, we laugh and we comment on the outrageous hats worn by the ladies.

After that, the race. The fastest two minutes in sports is a pure adrenaline rush. Party goers screaming out the name of the horse they just pulled out of a hat for their $2 bet. At the end of the race, the winning horse trots along the track. Cameras flashing. He’s led into the winner’s circle where he is adorned with a bed of roses and I think, “wouldn’t it be great if all of our best employees could be rewarded this way?”

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Care about the employee as a person

Maybe it’s not right to think of a horse as an employee, although stud fees can be quite substantial. Instead, let’s think about how we can apply this to our employees. Anne Mulcahy, former chairwoman of Xerox said, “employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” Caring about the employee as a whole person is what we are trying to focus on.

Receiving praise from superiors or peers reinforces one’s self-image. The improvement in self-image may lead employees to increase productivity, raise morale and foster better relationships throughout the work place. Heck, make a big enough bouquet of roses and they may want to run the Preakness.

Reward Employees

In my company last year, I asked managers to identify for me a worker in their charge who they felt provided a remarkable experience to a customer or to another stakeholder because of a benevolent act. I wanted to give the winner public recognition at our annual shareholder event. I received many submission of truly great displays of positive customer interactions. It was tough to select from the many. Here’s is something else I learned. I didn’t know many of the names that were submitted, but after reading their thoughtful acts I wanted to meet each one of them. Also, until you ask sometimes we as leaders might not know all the good deeds that are being done in our or the company’s name.

One person’s story rose about the rest. Lewis works as a water meter installation supervisor. His crew installs water meters for towns and cities. Last year, Lewis was working for a small town in Vermont when he learned about a water leak. Citizens of the town organized a Facebook page dedicated to giving comments about the meter exchange experience. Lewis checked the page regularly and saw that a citizen posted a comment that water was leaking from her meter. Lewis immediately contacted someone from his crew who was in the area and dispatched him to the woman’s home and followed there himself.

The water leak was small and fixed with only a little tightening. Lewis was standing on the woman’s front lawn when a man from the water department arrived to fix the leak. Lewis proudly told him that the matter was resolved. Think about this for a second. Lewis solved the woman’s issue before the city even arrived. Isn’t that the type of leadership we discuss on this podcast every week?

Reward Employees

I was proud to call Lewis on the stage in front of 500 of his coworkers and tell this story. We inscribed his name on a plaque which is mounted by the front door of the corporate office. And, we gave Lewis a very nice cash gift to take his family out.

The audience gave Lewis a rousing round of applause. And, I hope that some of them will take his story to heart when they have their next customer interaction.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on recognition. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Reward The Deserving. You heard it. Reward The Deserving.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. Successful organizations make recognition a priority. They realize that well designed recognition provides the organization and its employees with several positive results.

This works well in the office and should in your personal life as well. The most important day for recognition just passed, Mother’s Day. Who deserves more recognition and praise than our mothers or the mothers of our children? Quick fact – did you know that mother’s day is the busiest day for restaurants in the United States? It’s true. More than New Year’s Day, or Valentine’s Day. Nothing shows mom our appreciation more for mom than our being unwilling to cook dinner for her.

Remember Mother’s Day

I treasure Mother’s Day. Let me rephrase that. I treasure Mother’s Day now…now that I learned how important it is. My first child, Haley, was born on March 23rd. Jennifer and I were proud young parents and the birth of a healthy granddaughter moved me up in the polls with my father-in-law. However, my father-in-law was skeptical of me. I used to say that there were two things unpopular in Jim’s house; one was me and the other was – well, they both may have been me. Here’s an example of why.

The family drove to Vermont to watch Jennifer’s younger brother graduate from college. We drove home on Sunday morning following the ceremony. Jennifer seemed to be in a foul mood and I didn’t understand why. “Trent, do you know what today is?” The tone made me think that I did something wrong. “It’s Sunday.” “Yes, it’s Sunday. Do you know what Sunday?” “Um, the 12th of May?” I didn’t see where this was going. “Trent, do you what the second Sunday of May is?” After that, I still thought the answer was May 12th. “It’s Mother’s Day, Trent.” And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was Jennifer’s first Mother’s Day and I was completely oblivious to it. As you can imagine, my apologies were futile.

I stopped at a gas station for a pee break and while inside I saw that they were selling single roses for Mother’s Day. In an effort to appease the situation, I bought a rose for Jennifer and proudly gave it to her. I think it was Johnny Mathis who sang Too Much, Too Little, Too Late and it was the right song. My memory for details is normally quite acute. However, I can’t remember what happened to the rose. Jennifer may have snapped it in half, thrown it out the window or stabbed me with the thorns. I honestly can remember, but I know that the rose did not last very long.

Recognize People

In conclusion, Developing Resilient Leaders in the audience I offer this one piece of advice – Reward The Deserving. Reward employees.  Start with the mothers in our lives. I learned that lesson with a few cracks to the back of the head, but I know understand that it takes less than a moment for you to recognize someone for their achievements, for their efforts. The recognition, however, will stay with the recipient for a long time. Make your recognition sincere. Be specific why you are recognizing them and the power of their impact. This show of goodwill will have a tremendous impact on your organizations and in your lives. Lastly, make sure you recognize people while it matters don’t be like I was pulling a Johnny Mathis.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend. Our network has grown over this past year of producing podcasts and I thank the constant listeners for their support.

Last week, I delivered a keynote speech to a Boston based marketing association via Zoom titled Resiliency is a Reflex. Resiliency is being tested during this Corona chaos we are living through. If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your organization, please email me at info@trenttheroux.com. I’d love to discuss some of the details. Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.