They are the secret to transforming disgruntled, “lazy” employees wishing they were home curled up with a DVD into dynamos happy to come to work and committed to giving their best.
We saw an example of this in a baker in Western Australia who had obviously been dragged to a virtues workshop by his wife. Before we began, he sat slumped in his chair, arms crossed, looking very cross. His body language was loud and clear: “I don’t want to be here.”
After about 10 minutes, he sat up and paid attention. The next day, as we were walking down the street, we were surprised when he ran up to us, shouting, “It works! It works!” “What works?” Dan asked. “The Virtues Language! Everyone knows I’m the worst boss around. I’m grumpy, I shout, because I thought I had the laziest workers in town. So last night I tried an experiment. My back was hurting and one of the fellas noticed. He dragged a bag of flour over to me without my having to ask. I said, ‘Joe, thanks for being helpful. My back is really hurting tonight.’ He looked really shocked and said, ‘What did you say, boss?’ ‘You’re being really helpful.’ The whole night he was running around doing things and asking, ‘Anything you need, boss? How can I help you?’ It was amazing! I thought he was lazy but all of a sudden with just one virtue word, he was a new man. Next, I’m going to try it with my wife. Lord knows she deserves some appreciation.” Of course we acknowledged him for his courage and enthusiasm to speak this new language, and thanked him for making our day.
Language is powerful energy. It can drag people down or lift them up. It is one of our “supah powahs”. In a hotel ballroom in Korea, at a business breakfast with hundreds of CEOs, I was teaching the Positivity Sandwich for performance evaluation, otherwise known as ACT with Tact: Appreciate, Correct, and Thank, they got so excited they went well over the two hour time limit. It was all about how to bring to life, “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
In my organisational consulting days, the chief complaint amongst employees in workplaces with poor morale was feeling unappreciated, their best efforts gone unnoticed or even worse hearing only harsh criticism, never gratitude for good work. In Washington DC I was doing an organisational development consultation with the largest government agency in the world for the Inspector General. Part of the report was leadership feedback. When I first entered the head office, I was utterly surprised by the high energy atmosphere of diligence, enthusiasm, and comradery rather than the stereotypical dull bureaucratic snail’s pace culture. What I heard about the IG repeatedly when interviewing managers and employees was “He cares and he kicks butt.” He was like a beloved coach expecting the very best and showing people that they mattered. He sent cards on their birthdays and when they lost a loved one, walked around making small, appreciative comments. “Excellent report,” “Efficient strategy.” They lived for these. They knew they were making a difference every day.
Noticing the low morale of employees in a local business, I asked about it and one said, “There’s no love in this place.” If you think about the worst boss you ever had and the best, you’ll realise, it was the presence or absence of love, caring, honesty, appreciation, high expectations of excellence, and patient training that made all the difference. Being kind and kicking butt are great motivators.