in search of great work

By in Editor Picks, O.C. Tanner Institute, and Recognition Strategies
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It’s not often you can turn on the news and be inspired by today’s business leaders. Rather, we typically hear of massive layoffs, tough times, and unfathomable golden parachutes. It’s the kind of negative news that leaves most of us scratching our heads and wondering, “Who are these people?”

But I attended a meeting earlier this month that should give employees everywhere a reason to believe there are still many great leaders with not only bright business minds, but with hearts in the right place as well.

I sat alongside leaders from over 100 companies who gathered at O.C. Tanner’s annual Executive Recognition Summit to better understand the power and impact of appreciating great work. These leaders represented nearly two million employees worldwide. Some flew in on private jets, some walked down from their Manhattan high rises, others made a cross-country trek in coach to hear the message. But no matter how they got there, all left understanding a bit more about the influence the workplace can have on the human spirit. And all left with a greater respect for the fact that, at the end of the day, any and every business success is brought about by just one thing: people inspired to create great work.

Some knew firsthand the power of a sharing best practices and ideas for employee appreciation—for both their employees and the results of their organizations. Some were still skeptical. All listened to speakers who told them to pay attention to who their people are. Tom Carroll, EVP of HR for RR Donnelly led an insightful discussion about the past, present and future concerns of the many generations of today’s workforce and how that impacts employee recognition. Trying to lead Baby Boomers? Guiding Generation X? Pay attention because each speaks a different language and needs different things to contribute their best. Understand that, respect it, and unlock the potential that is currently lying dormant on the doorstep of your company.

Looking to create a turnaround in your organization? It may not be as impossible a task as it seems. Captain Mike Abrashoff former commander of the USS Benfold chose to talk and collaborate with sailors instead of bark orders and make assignments. He spoke to this group of leaders about tapping the ideas and commitment of those already enlisted in your cause. They know what needs fixing. They are waiting to contribute. They are already here.  Ask them. Express appreciation. And watch as that crew takes your organization from troubled ship, to the most combat-ready vessel in the fleet.

We’ve all attended many conferences in dimly-lit ballrooms watching our lives and an endless supply of PowerPoint slides flash before our eyes. This was different. This was a room full of leaders in active pursuit of that spark of great work they have seen come and go in their organizations. Could they make it stay, show up more often, and light up their companies continually? And as they listened and talked it over with each other, most came to conclusion that if they knew how to more frequently and effectively recognize and appreciate great work when it did show up, it might just decide to stay.

When does a job become more than a job?  When does the exchange we make for our time, talent and expertise with an employer become a reciprocal relationship? When does “I have to go to work” turn into “I get to go to work?”

By mindi cox
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