Employee Recognition & “The Jelly Of The Month Club”

How do thank your employees? Tis the season – one reminder of the holiday season is the comedy Christmas Vacation. The 80’s classic is full of humorous scenes, including one that offers a lesson on employee recognition, morale, and engagement. Clark is expecting his Christmas bonus, a thank you for his commitment to the company, a bonus he’s received for the past 17 years. The scene goes a little something like this (rating PG-13):

Clark: [realizes his bonus is a jelly-club membership] If this isn’t the biggest bag-over-the-head, punch-in-the-face I ever got, GOD DAMN IT! [kicks at the presents under the tree] 

Clark: [Finally revealing his Christmas Bonus to the family] It’s a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. 

Clark: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol? 

So, employees – can you relate to Clark?

How would you react if your company didn’t bother to say thank you for your commitment, and assuming you’re a high performer, say thank you for excelling at your job? What if they took away an incentive you counted on without communicating to you why or even providing an alternative form of thank you?

A lesson for leaders – a few minutes later Cousin Eddie kidnaps Mr. Shirley, and shows up at the Griswold house with him tied up. Mr.  Shirley’s wife calls the police and the SWAT team storms the Griswold house. Clark explains that he was upset when he found out about his bonus and that Eddie was just trying to help. The scene continues:

Mr. Frank Shirley: “Bonus? How did you get a bonus? I cut out bonuses this year.”

Clark: “Yeah, thanks for telling us. I was expecting a check. Instead I got enrolled in a jelly club. Seventeen years with the company. I’ve gotten a bonus every year but this one. You don’t want to give bonuses, fine! But when people count on them as part of their salary, well, what you did just plain…”

Rusty: Sucks!

Mrs. Helen Shirley: Frank?

Mr. Frank Shirley: Remember how I was toying with the idea of suspending the Christmas bonuses? 

Mrs. Helen Shirley: You *didn’t*! Well, of all the cheap lousy ways to save a buck! 

SWAT Commander: That’s pretty low, mister! If I had a rubber hose, I would beat you… 

So, leaders – you may be thinking, why should I care if my employees are recognized for their performance – I mean who is really going to kidnap me on Christmas?

Because if they aren’t recognized, then they are not likely to give the performance needed to satisfy customers. Customer satisfaction matters if you want to increase revenues and help the organization grow and prosper. Who is going to help you achieve your company goals?

Your people!

People have a fundamental human need to feel recognized, valued, heard and appreciated – particularly when they feel they’ve done a great job.

Granted, this is no longer the 80’s, and significant company-wide bonuses have become even rarer in the current economy (matter of fact it seems like these days more and more bonuses are going to CEOs than employees.) However, it doesn’t take a huge year end bonus to say thank you and to keep engagement and retention levels up. Hint: don’t wait until the end of the year!

Questions regarding employee engagement and recognition – and some answers:

  • What does recognition mean to your employees? It means they see you, the organization and leadership, care enough to say “thank you” and reward employees commitment and/or performance for a job well done. That in turn means that they have an increased sense of feeling valued and appreciated. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they tend to stay with the organization for a longer period of time. They also tend to speak highly of the organization to customers, stakeholders and peers increasing positive PR. They also tend to remain more committed to meeting organizational goals.
  • What is in it for me as an organization? In short, reduced attrition, increased retention, higher engagement and higher productivity. With all those things, employees are more likely to give the performance needed to satisfy customers, increase revenues, and help the organization grow and prosper. Measuring individual performance as it relates to organizational goals is an important step in aligning behavior, processes, and strategy. In creating performance management systems, emphasizing continuous “real-time” feedback rather than once-a-year evaluations becomes a key component in effectively managing performance.
  • What if I don’t have a budget to give them more $$?  When discussing employee engagement and recognition, many organizations first response is “…well these types of initiatives cost a lot and we don’t have the budget…” When times are tough, employee recognition is even more essential. Recognizing employees for a job well done doesn’t always require a large budget. A simple acknowledgement for a job well done, a thank you, goes a long way. Other ‘free’ options for recognition can include allowing them additional paid time off or increased flextime. Example: I worked with one client where we created a “Thank You Gallary.” We set aside a conference room and posted flip chart paper in a row along three walls of the room. On a table by the door in a bucket (that was creatively decorated by an artistic employee) were crayons, markers, and post it notes. In working with leadership of the organization, a communication was drafted and distributed to all employees explaining the purpose of the gallery and instructions for participation. When leadership wanted to recognize an employee for a job well done, assuming the employee was ok with public acknowledgement, (in addition to thanking them directly), leadership would go to the gallery room, grab a marker, and write a personal note of thanks on the gallery wall. Employees were encouraged to do the same. Within a little over a month, almost the entire gallery was full.  Engagement and performance increased – as did organizational communication. So, money is not always needed to recognize employees.

Employee engagement and recognition is about creating a win – win situation for both the organization and the employees.  The first step in doing so – communicate. So, in the words of Harry S. Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  Recognize your employees for a job well done, give credit where credit is due, and reap the rewards.

At the end of Christmas Vacation – Mr. Frank Shirley realized how important people are to the organization. It was a holiday miracle of sorts…

Mr. Frank Shirley: I changed my mind. I’m reinstating all the bonuses. Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference, little people like you. So, Carl, whatever you got last year, add 20 percent.”

Everybody: “(Gasping with excitement.)”

Clark: “(Passes out.)”

So this year – perform your own holiday miracle (and keep performing it all year long) – don’t let it wait until you get kidnapped by Cousin Eddie!  As the year comes to a close – are you taking steps to keep your employees engaged in in the new year? How are you thanking your employees for all their hard work?

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

Email | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog | Facebook


*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of  any and all of this content is prohibited without authorized consent of Tolero Solutions and the author.

3 Ways to Give and Receive Feedback

A person draws a marketing flowchart on a board with a markerAnd they say breaking up is hard to do. Try asking for feedback.

Asking for feedback can be scary. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t know what I am doing? Giving feedback can also make many uneasy. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they take it the wrong way?

There are plenty of what if’s when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. The reality is that you’re holding yourself back – personally and professionally – if you’re not doing either.

The name of the game is called constructive criticism.

Giving and receiving feedback is imperative to effective communication and high performance – it’s a cycle.  If you want someone to know that their behaviors and actions are upsetting to you or not meeting the mark, then you need to let them know. You also need to let them know why you’re upset and how that makes you feel or what specific behaviors and actions are impacting performance and why. And – you need to be willing to hear the same from others. So…

How do I ask for feedback?

  • Clarity – Be clear when asking for feedback. Express your thoughts and feelings in a rational and concise manner. For feedback to be constructive and effective both parties need to be clear in determining exactly what it is they want – this requires upfront agreement and understanding. Agree upfront to the desired outcomes and any follow-up actions per feedback discussions.
  • Transparency – Be transparent. Once clarity has been reached it is important to be transparent with what you’re asking and why. This is your opportunity to hear the truth (hopefully) so lay the groundwork by being transparent with WHY you want the feedback and HOW you think it can benefit both parties. Not just what’s in it for you to hear the feedback but what’s also in it for the giver to provide the honest feedback you’re requesting?
  • Honesty – Be honest. You need to be honest – with yourself and the giver of the feedback. When asking for feedback, you may not hear what you want to hear, the feedback may not be all positive. You need to be honest that this may not feel so good, and that you may not be able to change a situation or make improvement, so don’t over commit in an effort to change or improve.

How do I give feedback?

  • Build trust – Trust is imperative to providing effective feedback. If you want the receiver to really hear what you are saying, they need to know you have their best interests in mind, and your intent really is to try and help them grow and improve. People can often feel scared or threatened when receiving feedback, but if they’re receiving it from someone they trust, this often helps alleviate some of that fear – and thus they tend to be more receptive.
  • Suspend judgment – Judgment is just your opinion of a person or a situation. When people feel judged they shut down. This is the opposite of what feedback should accomplish. Don’t get into right and wrong and blame and shame. Stay objective and constructive.
  • Focus on behaviors – When giving feedback it is important to focus on the behaviors and actions and the impacts associated with those. Keep any emotions in check. Do not focus on the person or nitpick flaws. Don’t make it personal (even if sometimes it is.) State observations not interpretations.

For example, sometimes it’s as simple as saying:

“I think what I hear you saying is ______, is that correc?”

“You know (name) when you say things like that it really makes me feel frustrated because _______.”

“When I hear/see you do/say _______ it makes me feel _______ because ________.

“In an effort to help us all be more successful I would like to share with you some observations regarding _______.”

As you can see – giving  and receiving feedback isn’t that scary after all – and it can lead to improved relationships and increased performance. If you’d like to learn more about to communicate better overall – check out our Leadership Checklist here.

Share with us your stories about good and bad feedback on Twitter or on our Facebook Timeline.

About Scott Span, MSOD: is Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in creating high performance organizations – where employees enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business – organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

5 of the Most Innovative Leaders of 2014

innovation1Being a great leader takes many skills; innovation being one of them. To be an innovative leader takes vision. To be a successful innovative leader takes vision AND  execution.

Innovation – finding a better way of doing something or creating something new and executing the vision to make it a reality.

Innovation doesn’t just happen!

To build and lead an innovative business in today’s environment requires creating a responsive and agile organization. Building a learning organization where setbacks are used as opportunities for how to continually improve and innovate.

Vision and execution are not exactly synonymous – however, combined they often lead to innovation. The skills to turn vision into reality are what separates the good leaders from the rest of pack. Innovation requires great leadership.

And that’s why these 5 leaders deserve to be credited for the innovative work they’ve accomplished in 2014.

#5: Denise Morrison – Campbell Soup

One may initially wonder why a CEO for soup company would make the most innovative list of 2014 – however, changing the culture of an organization is never easy, especially at a 145-year old company.  And Denise Morrison is doing just that.  Earlier this year, Morrison outlined the four basic principles that she believes are vital to helping companies become innovators while focusing on a creating a high performance culture; these principles of a laser focus on consumers, leadership courage to enable cultural transformation, structuring teams and people to unshackle creativity and foster bold decision making, and a company wide sense of urgency are the foundation of her strategic plan to create cultural change at Campbell Soup.  Morrison has proven you can teach an old company new tricks.

“I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving: to help people, to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.” – Denise Morrison 

#4: Richard Branson – Virgin

As Branson himself said “Although it might be hard to believe now, the story of the Virgin Group is a small business that succeeded because of our team’s innovative spirit. When my friends and I started up our first business, Student magazine, we were a bunch of young hippies barely managing to scratch a living, yet we knew we had an idea for a product that people would want: A publication geared toward young people like us. I lived in a friend’s basement, and our office was based in a church crypt that a vicar let us use. We eventually turned our camaraderie and enthusiasm into a global business.” This enthusiasm and innovation keeps Branson’s companies thriving. Which is why Star Trek fans should rejoice. In 2014 Richard Branson continued his plans to take you and your friends into outer space with Virgin Galactic. But it’s not just his vision that makes him one of the most innovative leaders of 2014 – it’s his ability to execute on that vision – to try new things, push boundaries, and learn from his experiences.   Music, mobile phone plans, travel…even wine! And now space travel? What’s next?

Unless you dream, you’re not going to achieve anything.” – Richard Branson

#3: Evan Spiegel – Snapchat

Anyone who turns down $3-$4 BILLION dollars from Facebook has some serious vision. That’s because Snapchat is estimated to be worth $10 billion. Evan makes the list because he leads an organization that has acquired over 100 million in capital – without even turning a profit to warrant such a valuation. He saw a need (particularly amongst Millennials) and he had the vision to create a product to fill that need. Rather than text what you’re doing – why not take a picture and send it? Snapchat allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps after which they will be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from Snapchat’s servers – technology that didn’t exist before Snapchat. Evan has found a way to effectively monetize Snapchat without its user data. He achieved this in part by operating the service — and in particular the infrastructure — way cheaper than any competitors. The end result? Over 700 million pictures have been sent via Snapchat. In case you’re wondering – that’s over 700 million impressions for advertisers. You do the math.

I’d like to create a space for people who have a lot of talent but not a lot of reach.” – Evan Spiegel

#2: Howard Schultz – Starbucks

One either loves or hates Starbucks. But it’s hard not to love the evolution of the Starbucks brand. Starbucks recently unveiled a roadmap of innovations – the company shared several customer initiatives to further transform and elevate the Starbucks experience in holiday season of 2014 and beyond. Starbucks engaged with customers to collect data on consumer behavior and then acted on that data to further enhance the customer experience. A personalized loyalty program, tasting rooms, mobile ordering and payment… Starbucks processes over 3 million mobile payments…every week! That’s harnessing the power of customer feedback to continually enhance the customer experience.

“I think if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to dream big and then dream bigger.” – Howard Schultz

#1: Tim Cook – Apple

It’s hard to ignore the strides Cook has made over the years – trying to fill the shoes of Steve Jobs is no easy task. iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay, Apple Wear…shall I go on? Rather than just push out a new suite of products in 2014 – Cook focused on good product management – how do you solve a problem for the consumer and deliver them what they need? Cook has also increased the culture of innovation at Apple. Since he has taken the helm Apple has become a much more collaborative culture, a necessary change for ongoing innovation and growth.

You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user. – Tim Cook

Each of these innovative leaders has a proven track record of creating an agile and responsive organization with a culture that fosters innovation and produces brand loyalty.

Want to make the 2015 list? Here are some ways you can execute your vision in the most productive way.

  • Do you have clearly defined and flexible processes? Having an agile and innovative organization requires adaptable and flexible processes. Rigidity and complexity can kill innovation. Processes should support the organization in developing the ability to change and adapt. Are your processes flexible and easy to execute? How can your employees innovate new ways of doing things if they aren’t even sure how to do what currently needs to be done in the first place?
  • Do you have culture of engagement? People make the difference in every business. To foster ongoing innovation you must recruit, engage, and retain the right people for your culture. A high performance culture helps people reach higher levels of productivity and innovation. Is your culture toxic or do you people enjoy coming to work every day and contributing to ongoing business success? How can your business be innovative and agile if your employees aren’t engaged and committed?
  • Have you clearly defined your mission, vision, and strategy? Have you defined who you are as a company? What’s your identity? What do you want to achieve and how? And communicated this to employees? How can your business be innovative and agile if you haven’t determined and communicated who you are and where you could possibly go.

Innovation doesn’t just happen. Innovation requires key areas of your business running like a well-oiled machine. To learn more – or to receive a complimentary consultation on how to increase your agility and  innovation – send our Lead Consultant, Scott Span, an email. He’ll be happy to talk to you about how to resolve this issue.

So – who do you think are some of the most innovative leaders of 2014 and why? Who makes your list? 

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

Email | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog | Facebook


*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of  any and all of this content is prohibited without authorized consent of Tolero Solutions and the author.