An Exercise For Improving Your Work Environment

by Sandy Wilder

Sometimes we get so busy that the only time our associates hear from us is when they mess up or do something exemplary. Is this the case with you and your direct reports? When we allow business tasks to consume all of our time, business relationships suffer.

What can you do to help create a true service culture, one in which people feel engaged and willing to go the extra mile? How can you help create a climate where people feel valued and, therefore, more committed to contribute in a meaningful way?

Here's an exercise you can do with your team that will uncover ways they can show appreciation for others, which will ultimately lead to a more collaborative work environment.

Ask your team to brainstorm ways they can show their associates that they value and believe in them, independent of their performance. Record their answers as a takeaway so that they can start using them immediately.

A word of caution: A genuine desire to appreciate others is crucial to the success of this activity. If you really don't care much about your team, then they undoubtedly have felt this, and your actions will be seen as insincere.

The reason it is so important to show appreciation independent of their performance is because if you only communicate that you value someone when they perform well on their job, they will think your appreciation is conditional. Conditional appreciation does not help people find the intrinsic motivation to continually provide exceptional service; it may only produce short-term spikes in performance because people will feel that they are only appreciated for what they do, and not who they are.

We have done this exercise with many clients over the years, as well as here at Communico. Here are some of the suggestions that we have heard:

Show it in words...

  • Send a postcard appreciating their spirit and soulful efforts
  • Copy a story about someone who goes the extra mile, and leave it with a note saying 'thought of you when I read this'
  • Post-it note in a unique place, like on their windshield, with an upbeat or grateful message
  • Tell them something that you learned from them (not about work, but about a way of being)
  • Don't hesitate to say 'I'm sorry' when you need to
  • Share a quote, story, or poem that has value to you or relates to something of interest to them
  • Ask them about their weekend, family, what book they're reading, etc.
  • Show interest in something on their desk
  • Give them a quote that reminds you of them· Send a note or e-mail just saying 'I appreciate you'
  • Compliment them genuinely, describing what you see
  • Say 'please' and 'thank you' a lot
  • Ask their opinions and show respect by hearing them out
  • Keep people informed about anything that may be relevant to their experience

Show it in gestures and deeds...

  • Smile - a lot
  • Bring them one of their favorite foods or flowers as a surprise
  • Give 'thank you' notes for small things not related to performance
  • Do a chore, job, or responsibility for them that is theirs
  • Ignore interruptions while they are talking to you (e.g., phone, email)
  • Empty your hands (e.g., don't click your mouse, fiddle with papers, hold a pen, etc.); pay attention
  • Respond to their needs and questions without delay
  • Do unsolicited favors (e.g., get coffee, clean their office)
  • Help out when the person is swamped or extra busy
  • Take time to check in on them - ask how they're doing after a particularly hectic or challenging day or project
  • Remember important dates, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  • Bring cappuccinos or Frappucinos in the afternoon…for everyone

Show it deeply...

  • Show up in the now when interacting with them; 'be' with them, instead of judging them or having your own agenda
  • Always be open and honest with them
  • Share authentic, heartfelt laughter



The most important activity of all: Genuine Listening

Imagine all of these activities piled up on one side of a scale. Now, put genuine listening to the needs, desires and goals of an individual on the other side of that scale. This level of listening will always outweigh the other actions you can take. When an individual feels genuinely listened to they feel valued for who they are. That makes all the difference in the way they feel about their role, their department and the organization as a whole.

Try this exercise and let us know how it worked for you. Be sure to model the actions described by your associates and encourage them to practice them as well. Then you will see the difference it can make in your service culture.

Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.