However, holidays like this always get me thinking about the deeper, long-term ways we show appreciation to team members. Our culture at SpinWeb is the primary reason that we have such a high retention rate and a long list of friends of the company that want to work with us. Though I'm far from perfect, I do make it a priority to not just sporadically offer gifts and tokens of appreciation, but rather to commit to a fundamental philosophy of appreciation that is core to our culture.
So what are some of the ways that you can show appreciation to your team year-round? These are some pages from my playbook and I hope they can help you, too.
Invest in Their Professional Development
There's a saying out there:
CFO to CEO: "What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?"
CEO: "What happens if we don't, and they stay?"
Great people crave professional development. My team members love to learn new things, develop new skills, and get better all the time. I'm always looking for ways to help them develop professionally (and sometimes personally).
You don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money on fancy conferences or expensive training programs. You can pay for them to earn certifications that are relevant to their jobs. You can give them books to read. You can establish internal training forums, like aBarCamp.
Have I invested in team members who later left and took all those skills with them? Sure. But it's by far outweighed by the majority who stay and put those skills to good use here at SpinWeb serving our clients. It's just the right thing to do.
When you care enough about your team members to invest in them, they feel appreciated.
Create a Culture of Freedom and Trust
Nothing says, "I don't appreciate you" like lack of trust. Unfortunately, many companies make their employees work in an office from 8am to 5pm, request time off using allocated PTO, and ask for permission to do anything outside of the standard "butt in seat" office environment. Fortunately, this mindset is changing (albeit slowly).
To me, showing appreciation to your team members means trusting them. That's why our culture is based on results and what we get done, not how much time we spend in the office. Our culture is based on theResults-Only Work Environmentand empowers each team member to work wherever they want whenever they want as long as the work gets done.
Because of this, my team feels trusted and empowered to make good decisions for themselves and for the company. When you trust your team members to make good decisions, they usually make good decisions. This is one of the greatest ways to show appreciation.
Empower Them to Make Decisions
Going deeper into the concept of trust, empowering your employees to make decisions is a great way to show appreciation. I've seen environments where the CEO required everyone to get approval on every single decision in the company. I don't know about you but I would find it exhausting to have to manage every little decision.
If you give your team members general guidelines and then empower them to make decisions and take ownership of their jobs, not only does it show appreciation, but it also leads to better work and more efficient operation.
Listen to Their Expertise
I hired smart people for a reason. I want a team of skilled professionals that excel in their areas of expertise and bring experience to the table. I want their advice.
I will often talk to Allison and ask her what she thinks about a strategic decision and she often disagrees with me. It doesn't mean that I have to take every suggestion from her, but much of the time I will defer to her suggestion because I know that she has the experience and intelligence to back up her ideas. She's the expert. I will often defer to Steph's ideas on content or Jason's design feedback.
If you've done a good job of hiring the right people, you have built a team of experts who have skills that you don't. This means you should listen to your team members so they can help you make better decisions. When your team members know that their feedback is taken seriously, they feel appreciated.
Don't Be Scary
What does "don't be scary" mean? Let me explain with a story. I once sat in a sales meeting with a group of people who worked at a company that we were considering doing business with. The marketing and IT teams were super-smart, they had great ideas, and we hit it off really well.
Then, the CMO walked in. As soon as he started speaking, I could tell that his team was terrified of him. He was opinionated, brusque, fairly close-minded, cursed liberally, and he completely derailed the meeting. He had made up his mind about the direction he wanted to go and it was clear that his employees did not feel comfortable debating with him or fighting for their opinions. He was not approachable to them because he clearly was not interested in listening. He was more concerned with being the scary hard-charging CMO.
It's ok to be opinionated and have ambition and drive. However, be sure you balance it with enough curiosity and humility that your team members feel comfortable telling you that you're wrong. Your team members should not be scared of you. They should respect you because you respect them. When this is the environment, they feel appreciated.
Respect Their Time
As business leaders, we can sometimes have a bad habit of disrespecting other people's time. Or maybe it's just me. In any case, I sometimes find myself being late to meetings with my team or missing commitments and excusing it with the fact that that "I'm the CEO so it's ok."
This, however, is rude and disrespectful. Being the CEO or business owner does not excuse anyone for wasting someone else's time, especially the time of your own employees.
Be on time for meetings with your team. While you're there, be engaged. Pay attention and listen to others. This may seem obvious, but I've been in meetings where the CEO waltzed in 20 minutes late and then stayed distracted by her phone during the entire meeting. I'm embarrassed to say that I've been guilty of this in the past, but I make an effort to avoid behaving this way ever again.
When you respect your team members' time, they feel appreciated.
Say "Thank You"
Ok, this is really obvious but how often do we do it? Business owners and CEOs are notorious for beinghigh "D"profiles who are driven by bullet points and next actions. It doesn't mean we don't care, it just means we have things to do.
Take the time to really notice when someone does a good job and thank them sincerely and publicly for their work. We all need to know that our work makes a difference (myself included) and sometimes a simple "thank you" is all it takes.
I'll go ahead and take this opportunity to publicly thankmy amazing teamfor truly being the best in their areas of expertise, for their tireless pursuit of excellence as they serve our clients, and for being an absolute joy to be around. I consider them not only my peers but my friends.
Business leaders: what are some of the ways you show appreciation to your team?