8 Ways CEOs can become Chief Encouragement Officers

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By: Ken Gosnell

Business appreciation is a paradox. Appreciation is the one employee development tool that costs the business nothing. It is also the one benefit that all employees need and desire. According to Gallup, “Only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.”

Leaders have enormous power to encourage and inspire their teams through their words and actions. If leaders learn this leadership secret, they can improve company morale, employee performance, and communication and teamwork.

Here’s how leaders can start their new role as “chief encouragement officer.”

1. Public Recognition

One of the best disciplines a CEO can develop is to praise people in public.

One way CEOs can do this is through tribal storytelling. Native American leaders would pass down key values from generation to generation by sharing and repeating certain stories throughout the tribe. CEOs would be wise to follow this tradition, giving examples of team members who acted on values and principles that the organization embodies.

2. Written Notes

Written notes have power. Writing a personal letter is a valuable way to give praise, as it serves as a touch point for thoughtfulness. Personal notes touch deep within a person, and a wise CEO uses this tool to appreciate their team.

Doug Conant, the retired CEO of Campbell Soup, used this tool effectively to turn his company around. He explained his process in an interview in the August 2012 Sloan Management Review. He stated, “I would pick about 10 to 20 things every day and I would hand write a note to the person saying, ‘Thanks for the help. I understand we’re ahead of schedule. Nice job.’ Over the course of my career I sent out about 30,000 personal notes, and we only had 20,000 employees.”

Imagine the impact it would have on an employee to walk in and find a personal note from the CEO on their desk or at their workstation. If CEOs wrote just one note a day, they would have written over 250 notes a year to their most important people: their team members.

3. Personal Time

People like spending time with their leaders. When a leader takes a little extra time to spend with their team, it’s noticed and appreciated. Practice the habit of taking team members on special outings as a way of communicating appreciation. A leader should always have someone next to them. These moments provide an opportunity to personally mentor an employee by passing along key leadership principles.

4. Meaningful Gifts

A gift from a leader is not quickly forgotten. These awards can come in the form of books, gift cards or office tokens. Find ways to personalize your appreciation. For example, I give away 100 Grand candy bars to my team with a note saying “You are worth 100 Grand to me.” The team loves it.

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