How to Build a More Engaged Team While Becoming a More Effective Leader

Be On A Mission To Catch Your Employees Doing Things Right

Did you know that 63% of employees who are recognized regularly said they wouldn’t consider looking for a new job? It’s time to be on a mission to catch your employees doing things right.  Employees who are recognized regularly are more engaged and view their leaders as more effective.

Employee Recognition, The DiJulius Group

Recognize, Recognize, and Then Recognize the Team Some More

When your team is highly engaged, happy, and feeling appreciated, you are more likely to have their respect as a leader. The numbers tell the story. In a study involving 10,000 U.S. employees, the firm Interact found that when workers felt management appreciated their contributions, employee engagement was boosted 60%. Employees who receive positive reinforcement feel valued, enjoying greater self-confidence and finding it easier to handle tough situations, especially with difficult customers. They even have more available headspace for creative, innovative thinking. An effective leader keeps these factors and their effects on company culture front of mind.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it

is like wrapping a present and not giving it”

Our loved ones and coworkers are not telepathic about our appreciation; you must continually be expressing your gratitude and appreciation.

Employees Would Rather Be Criticized Than Ignored

According to a Gallup poll on the “State of the American Workplace,” when bosses completely ignore employees, 40 percent of staffers actively disengage from their work. When the boss criticizes a direct report or other team member on a regular basis, 22 percent of employees actively disengage. So even if employees are being criticized, they are more engaged; they feel that at least someone is acknowledging that they exist! Naturally, though, they’d prefer to be recognized for positive behavior. Annual performance discussions are great but not nearly enough to boost employee morale. If bosses recognize just a single strength—using effective praising to explain it in detail—and reward employees for doing what they’re good at, only one percent actively disengage from the work they are expected to do. Added to those statistics is the fact that people who go to work unhappily do things, actively or passively, to make those around them unhappy, too.

*Related – Beware how this one thing can hurt your workplace culture

Never Forget About the Unsung Heroes

Recognize everyone, regardless of their position or title; ask for their input and opinions. You may be surprised by what you will learn. When the CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation, Walt Bettinger was asked what the best lesson was he learned in college, he answered that he wanted to graduate with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and it came down to his last final exam. “I had spent many hours studying and memorizing formulas to do calculations for the case studies. The teacher handed out the final exam, and it was on one piece of blank paper,” explained Bettinger. “The professor said, ‘I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?’”

That test and lesson had a lasting impact on Bettinger. “It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie.” Although he had seen her many times, he’d never had a conversation with her, even if just to introduce himself and learn her name. Bettinger realized he’d been missing important moments of connection. “I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since. It was just a great reminder of what really matters in life, and that you should never lose sight of people who do the real work.”

*Related – How to Hire and Retain the Best Team Members by Improving Your Recruitment Strategy

Great Leaders are Obsessively Grateful and Positive

Being shown appreciation for the work they do makes employees feel valued and proud. Celebrating small achievements helps people face larger challenges. It builds momentum. The experience of celebrating small accomplishments sets up a positive dynamic where everyone wants to do better. Routinely, frequently, and generously thanking team members costs nothing and has enormous benefits.

Giving positive feedback builds employee confidence and reinforces beneficial behaviors. One study compared athletes who received unconditional positive comments from their coaches with those who received criticism. The former group experienced an increase in confidence, greater love for the sport, and stronger persistence through challenges. The latter group felt less secure, less motivated, and tended to wear out more quickly. The same pattern has been found true for teachers and students, and it applies to bosses and the people they “coach” in the workplace as well, both front-line employees and those behind the scenes.

“A person will never go any higher than they think they can”

Paying more, by itself, is not a long-term solution for retaining top talent. The most powerful approach to being proactive about talent is to invest in your existing team members. People have an insatiable need for attention. We all want to be seen, heard, and valued for our own unique set of skills and contributions. Data shows over and over that employees who receive weekly, light-touch attention from their managers are not only happier with their employee experience overall, but they are three times more likely to be all-in at work and motivated to provide a best-in-class customer experience.

*Related – This Workplace Best Practice Will Help Your Employee Retention Strategy

Catching People Doing Things Right

Do you have a system that reminds and inspires leaders to encourage others on a consistent basis? In my companies, one of the most effective tools in boosting morale is our “Caught You Doing Something Right” card, which acknowledges some specific positive action or behavior a team member has executed. We keep stacks of these cards in the employee break room, call center, and any other room a team member enters. We started using them as a management tool, and now everyone has access to them. An employee may open his office drawer and find a “Caught You Doing Something Right” card thanking him for helping someone through a mini crisis the day before. Most employees collect and save these cards.

Our management team is required to catch people doing things right on a regular basis. This is so embedded in our culture that we now have a spreadsheet with every employee’s name down one side and each manager’s name across the top. The manager fills in the date he or she last sent that employee a “Caught You Doing Something Right” card. This way we can spot when someone hasn’t been recognized in a while and immediately “catch” him or her.

*Related – This Leadership Best Practice Promises to Help Workplace Culture Thrive

We have even held “Caught You Doing Something Right” contests, and the employee who gives the most cards wins a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. The entire team really gets into it. One shy employee went home one night and wrote out over 100 personalized cards to everyone on our staff.

“The only time you should blame others for your results is when you are successful”

Relationship Hacks: More is More

Numerous little investments in relationships are key to building that emotional connection. I learned a great relationship hack from reading Adrienne Bankert’s book, Your Hidden Superpower, Kindness. Adrienne talks about the power of taking a few minutes to video text people instead of just texting them. So, I tried it and to my amazement it was fast, easy, and the responses I got were incredible.

I have always texted my employees on their company anniversary dates and professional and personal milestones to thank and/or congratulate them. Now instead I send a video text, which takes less time than typing and has a significantly bigger impact. I am trying to force myself to think before I text anyone—employees, clients, my sons—would this be more powerful as a video message? The answer is nearly always yes.


Anne Mahlum is Keynoting the Customer Service Revolution Conference

We are thrilled to announce that Anne Mahlum is keynoting at this year’s Customer Service Revolution. Anne Mahlum is an American entrepreneur, motivational speaker, experienced CEO, business owner, philanthropist, and athlete. Anne left aABPORTRAITS3872 RT2, The DiJulius Group promising corporate career in 2007 to found Back on My Feet, a national non-profit organization that uses running as a vehicle to help those experiencing homelessness become empowered to change their lives. Since its inception Back on My Feet has helped thousands of individuals achieve employment and more self-sufficient living.

But Anne didn’t stop there. She found success again when she founded [solidcore] in 2013 and grew it into one of the country’s most successful boutique fitness companies. In just nine years, Anne raised more than $70M to grow [solidcore] to over 90 locations across the U.S. Anne is currently the Executive Chairwoman at [solidcore], which now has over 1,000 employees and over 100,000 clients.


Episode 124 of the Customer Service Revolution Podcast

The Ownership Mindset, with Kerry Siggins

Chief Revolution Officer, John DiJulius, talks with Entrepreneur and Author Kerry Siggins.  Kerry has an incredible story of overcoming addiction and becoming a modern success story.  She is the CEO of StoneAge Holdings, a fast growing manufacturing and technology company based in Colorado. Under Kerry’s leadership, StoneAge has experienced double digit growth, year over year and in 2015, she successfully transitioned the company’s ownership structure to an ESOP, ensuring that all employees share in the success of the company through employee ownership.

You will learn:

  • Insight on how to develop leadership competencies, create winning cultures, and scale impactful businesses.Kerry 5672 Cropped, The DiJulius Group
  • What The Ownership Mindset is and why having it matters.
  • How leaders can embrace and adopt The Ownership Mindset.
  • If The Ownership Mindset is something people always have or if it develops over time.
  • Why Kerry believes that responsibility is the cornerstone to creating a fulfilling life and career.
  • What leaders should do if they have people on their team who aren’t “owning it.”
  • What the business impacts are of having employees who embody The Ownership Mindset.

Register for the 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference

CSRev Sizzle Reel, The DiJulius Group

SpeakerLineup, The DiJulius Group

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.