A gift that keeps on giving

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Updated Dec 3, 2013

One of the best gifts you can give your employees this Christmas season is the gift of thanks. A nice fat bonus check would be pretty awesome, too.

Among the gifts that are free, a hefty pat on the back is always appreciated.

With a few exceptions, trucking is a tough industry right now and people at every level know it.

If carriers can’t get quality loads and/or drivers, there’s a trickle down that eventually lands in every service shop and the warehouses of every supplier in the industry.

I’ve coached my 9-year-old daughter’s little league softball team for several years, and from those experiences I’ve learned some of management’s greatest lessons; mostly about showing appreciation for exceptional effort, not necessarily exceptional results.

In business, just like sports, we all rise and fall together. But do all of your employees understand the roles they play, and how their contributions push the company toward goal?

Have you recognized the performance of an employee or department formally in front of their peers?

After every softball game, win or lose, we always had a brief team meeting. I asked the girls what they learned from the game, any key takeaways — like who the opposing team’s best hitters were, and if there was anything we should have done differently in the areas where I felt like we made mistakes.

All the while, I’m holding a dirty yellow ball that every girl on that team desperately wants to take home.

The game ball, when you’re 9, is the embodiment of personal success. It means more than an A in the fourth or fifth grade.

It means more because they earned it, and it was awarded to them in front of their peers and their parents.

We all want the team win, but we all crave the personal success.

They know, taking that dirty bright yellow ball home, that regardless of what happened in that game, their boss/coach knew they were doing everything possible to help the team win.

I’m not a believer in “everybody gets a participation ribbon.” However, I firmly believe in rewarding those who give their all, even if we fail in a collective effort.

I was a newspaperman in a former life, and one of my favorite bosses once told me, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing enough.”

He meant, certain kinds of mistakes are okay because they are a reflection of effort.

He was also keen to point out there is no such thing as a failure, only an opportunity to be better.

Have you ever gotten an email from a supervisor after a particularly challenging month that basically says “our performance in this segment was unacceptable?”

Didn’t you already know that before you read the email?

If you have a department or business segment facing a challenge, saying something like, “we have a lot of opportunities in the coming year to surpass goals that eluded us in 2013” will take everyone a lot further than calling them out on a shortcoming.

I read a lot about how much better the economy is getting, but that may be part of my problem — I read too much.

Most of the businesses I speak to on a weekly business say things are marginally better in certain respects, but opportunity abounds in all areas.

You can say 2013 was sub-standard without labeling it a failure.

Many of your Christmas parties are likely already planned, and your holiday cards are probably already being printed.

I suggest, as you look to formalize those plans, you or the leader of your organization set aside time for a toast.

Toast all your employees for whatever level of success your company enjoyed in 2013, and ask for their commitment in helping guide their friends and co-workers to an excellent 2014.

Hand out your company’s version of a game ball, and huddle up for one last “go team” as the sun sets on your 2013.

Merry Christmas, and may your 2014 exceed all budgeted expectations.

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