Time Will Trick You- Fight Back!

Time plays funny games on you sometimes. Last week I picked up our oldest daughter Kate at the conclusion of her first year in college.  Even though I had seen her — perhaps 10 times at intervals during this academic year — it still felt as though I had dropped her off a month ago, or okay, maybe two months at the most.  Then, when I was doing our “man on the street” interviews for my radio show this week, I asked a fellow about receiving recognition, and he said: “well it’s been about 20 years since I was recognized at work.” Holy smokes, time sure can get away from you.

Consider one implication from each of these stories.  The story about Kate offers this lesson: Although things may seem so much the same, things are changing all the time.  Our customers, context, employees, and technology — just to name a few factors — are always changing, and arguably changing at a faster rate than ever before.  So taking time out to note those changes and adapt is essential.  I was consulting to a management team at a great company, and I was asking them how they could radically heighten their workers’ sense of ownership.  I thought there was an awful lot of merit in one gentleman’s suggestion.  He said he was thinking of taking a hiatus for a week from his management meetings and instead getting completely immersed in the work of the teams that reported to him.  He sensed quite well that things have surely changed since he was in their positions.  (In much the same way I plan on just listening and observing how my “new” daughter has evolved.)

When the “man on the street” said it had been 20 years since he was (formally) recognized at work, my first instinct was to laugh, then to cry, and finally to say “it’s really just not so surprising that 20 years could pass with no one keeping score. Time flies.”  But the obvious moral of the story is this: People need to be told what they’re doing well and told often.  Time can slip away on you (as can taken-for-granted employees).  You assume they know that they’re playing a great role.  You think you told them last week, or was it last month.  “What?” you say.  “It wasn’t last year?  It was some time in the 20th century that they received that recognition from the CEO?”  So before this day ticks away on you, look for some people to recognize, appreciate, and encourage for their good work.  Maybe order those plaques or rings or cheesecakes or Tigers tickets or movie passes, or something fun to recognize a job well done.  (By the way, in chapter 7 of Adrian Gostick’s new book The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten up At Work, you can find 142 ways to have fun at work.)

Time, like rust, never sleeps.  Stay alert and alive

To lead with your best self!

  • Recognition is a really important issue for keeping people and teams engaged. I find that one of the trickier areas is in recognizing your “B-Players”. A-players can get neglected as well, but it’s easy to recover there if you give it just a little thought. By definition they’re always doing things that are easy to recognize (thus, they’re A-Players). B-Player’s can be a lot tougher. They can be the backbone of your organization, but recognizing them for something that someone else does better can seem false and can even be damaging (to the person who does it better). I’d be interesed in how other folks deal with keeping this key group engaged.

    • Scott hits it on the head. This is the conundrum for leaders on using recognition as positive engagement: How does one recognize teams AND B-players, not neglecting A-players, AND not neglecting Executives (who need recognition too — and who studies tell us routinely receive less recognition than anyone — just higher “compensation”).
      There’s good info in “The Carrot Principle,” about how the best orgs and managers try to do it correctly everyday. Short book, based on research, with great tips. Dan has had the authors on his radio show, and he can vouch for the smarts and executable tactics in that book. http://www.carrrots.com is a good site for answers to some of these question.

      Personally, I have a post-it on my computer that asks me “who have I thanked today?” That helps me.

  • If you want those who work with / for you to continue to grow, you must episodically comment on the evolving quality of their efforts at work. Nothing and no-one grow without care and nourishment.
    I think that this article is a wonderful reminder for leaders–regardless of the work setting, regardless of the leader’s tenure and experience. The surest way to diminish the quality of effort–whether dealing with a child, a co-worker, or a garden–is to ignore it.

  • Time does fly and a person has trouble remembering some specific dates in the course of a week or two. When we grow older, time does seem to fly by more quickly.

    I would have to believe that listening to people is a great trait for a manager. My wife is a great listener and people enjoy talking to her because she listens to people.

    Talk about how time flies? In about two and one half years Jennifer Granholm will no longer be governor. Term limits keep her from running for reelection. By all accounts Governor Granholm has been a great governor for Michigan.

    • Gerald is right on the money. Gerald states the Governor has done a great job during her term in office. While leaders should recognize the worth of the members of their team, I believe recognition is a two way street which is why I offer the folowing observations: Governor Granholm is the leader of our state and she constantly travels great lengths to recognize citizens from around the state, state employees, police and firefighters, government workders, people who work at all levels in the private sector from the executive to the line worker, electrician or carpenter. She does this to promote our state and tell the world about how Michigan is a great place to live and work because of the contributions her team makes to dispell the notion that Michigan is on life support. I ask, how many of us have thanked the Governor for the tremendous job she has done in administering the affairs of our State? How many of us have congratulated the Governor on something she has achieved and thanked her for her tireless efforts in dealing with the economic chaos we face in Michigan which she had no role in creating? How many of us have written letters to the editor challenging news items that distort the Governor’s accomplishemnts or complained to media personalities (print or otherwise)about how they selectively manipulate coverage of issues she engages or gloss over her success in bringing jobs to Michigan? As you can tell Gerald hit a nerve but as I stated previously recognition is a two way street and while we would expect our leaders to acknowledge what their colleagues do well their is an equal obligation on those who are being led to recognize their leaders for the the positive marks they leave on the work place, society, and the community they function in.

  • Thanks, Dan. As always, your insights are very helpful. This is especially insightful, and reminds us all to be more open and appreciative in making sure that everyone we work with or volunteer with feels valued and appreciated. It certainly makes it a better and happier world.

  • Time flys and things need to change, and we need to recognize that. This is a good reminder not only to individuals, but also to companies and organizations: Time can and does get away from them. I have sometimes stopped going to an organization’s meetings, and returned a year later to find that their agenda is exactly the same, they have not finished anything, except repeated the same problems and are still trying to solve them. They have the same people complaining about each other on the same issues, some very personal issues, and so their meetings are more like watching a soap opera: after months and even a year very little has changed, and the same feuds continue.
    A local political committee chair in Alpena, who had long served stepped aside a few years ago. I asked him why, and he said that he had not seen any improvement in his local political committee, and at the same time no one had challenged his position as chair or run against him. He thought that if he stepped aside new leadership would step up, and it did. The committee took some good turns and some bad turns, but it evolved and was more active than it had been in recent years, and new people came into the organization, all the time with the former chair attending about half the meetings, but never taking an office. I thought this was a rare example of leadership by stepping aside, because the leader saw that time was passing without results.

  • I’m glad you mention this important but too often forgotten issue for leaders. Even those of us who do our best to do “all the right things” as leaders sometimes forget how important simple and regular recognition is for those we work with. By the way, I’m a recent subscriber to your newsletter and it is great!

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