Look ‘Em in the Eye
I learned a lot in the Marines. One of the things I learned was the importance of people. I also learned how important it is to pause from time to time and thank people for their contribution. And then there are the times when we need to do more than pause; we need to stop. Gene Duncan is a former Marine who wrote several books about his time in the Corps. His books are a collection of funny, sad, and poignant “letters” relating the experiences of two professional Marines, truthfully telling it like it was in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. As a young Officer of Marines, I learned from reading “Dunc.” Like you, I continue to learn from reading. Consider that you are reading this issue and I hope you will learn from it too.
He wrote about the importance of letting people know you cared. In fact, taking care of people is a chapter in my first book, No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win In Business. He cited Thanksgiving and Christmas as two times that deserved special attention. His advice was to form up your platoon and put the Marines “at ease.” Then walk through the ranks, talking to each Marine, asking about their holiday plans, making sure they were taken care of. Finally, he advised, look them square in the eye while shaking their hand, and say, “Thank you for your valuable contribution.” The first time I did this, it felt a little awkward–but it felt good also. It felt good because I could feel the connection with my Marines and I knew they appreciated my action. This appreciation leads to higher performance and deeper loyalty. The kinds of things that differentiate your business and make it succeed.
I realize you’re not going to put your people into platoon formation, but I do know that you can visit them in their workspaces or on the jobsite and extend the same courtesy and respect that I did when I talked to my Marines. You’ll be amazed at the impact this will have. You may decide, Christmas being so close to Thanksgiving, that you’d prefer to “spread out” your thanks. That’s fine; choose another important holiday when people will be away from work, spending time with family and friends. The day you select should be special to the members of your team. In our multi-cultural society there are other options. Your recognition on this occasion will make a positive impact on them.
A word of caution: don’t do this if you don’t believe it. If you are the type of leader who really does value your people and views them as important peers in the process of creating your product or service, then this will be well-received. If you view people as expendable production assets, and use this advice as a technique to motivate them, forget it–they will see right through you. Last year a client of mine did this for Christmas and he could not stop talking to me later about what a positive experience it was.
In closing, I want to look you in the eye and thank you for reading. I can’t set you up in platoon formation, but please accept my gratitude for your trust and confidence in me. Best Wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018.