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!