It’s the Cool Managers Who Appreciate People

New at the store is our fun, practical, and meaningful QBQ! poster: 

Ten Truths of Personal Accountability

And now, our newest blog post … 

Char bent

I had just finished teaching 20 of the “47 Ways to Be Exceptional” from our Outstanding! book at a cancer research hospital, when the Director of Anesthesiology asked, “How do I do some of that stuff like your manager did in the houseplant story you told?”

And I thought, Well, nice to know my content is still relevant.

You see, in the corporate world, people (Read: fad crazy executives and their HR, training, and OD departments) are always searching for the next magic solution or bolt of white lightening to fix the problems faced. It’s too bad they waste time, money, and energy chasing the latest training craze, when all they need to do is return to the fundamentals.

A few questions:

Want a stronger, more positive organizational culture? Engaged people? Increased productivity, purpose, and passion?

If so, then do this. (Now back to the doctor’s houseplant reference):

I was home alone one morning in 1986 making phone calls from my basement office to set up appointments with executives to sell leadership training when the doorbell rang. By the time I got to the door, the delivery person was gone, but there was an enormous potted plant sitting on my steps. The note attached was from my manager, Jim, and it was addressed not to me, but to my wife, Karen. Jim’s note said how glad he was to have us both “on the team,” and how proud of me he was for that month’s sales performance.

That act of appreciation meant a lot to Karen and me. This was my first sales job—I had joined the company just three months earlier—and we were both feeling the pressure of my new position. Jim’s gesture spoke volumes about my new boss, his beliefs about recognition and how to treat people. It affirmed for both of us the decision to join this small organization. I could say that Jim’s gesture would’ve been even better had the florist removed the bright red tag that said “Price reduced—50% off.” But, hey, it’s always good to save a few dollars! The important point is that I knew I was working for a company that valued and appreciated its people. {excerpted from Outstanding!}


Recently, our eldest, still-at-home child, Charlene, landed her first job ever, working for Target. A month later, the note card pictured above came by retro snail-mail. When she opened it and saw all the appreciation, I witnessed firsthand—as a parent, not as an author or “consultant”—the outcome of Target management’s simple act. Char’s face beamed, and after she read each person’s comment out loud to us, she exclaimed, “My managers are so cool!”

Well, that did it for me. No fancy training program is needed to be a “cool” manager. All you have to do is what has made sense for a long, long time:

Thank people for what they do.

And not just with words.

Words are nice, but actions are everything. My boss knew it 1986; Charlene’s management knows it today.

So, to executives, managers, supervisors, and team leaders everywhere, we say—Be cool!

For Comment and Conversation:

Share a time you were appreciated by management. What did that manager do and how did it affect you?

If you’re a manager, what actions have you taken to demonstrably appreciate people?

For another post on good people management, enjoy this: Managers: Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes

(If you are not a subscriber to our QBQ! QuickNotes, sign up here.)


25 Responses

  1. I recently took my team out to get some frozen yogurt on my dime. It was a fun time to just chill and hang out together and for me to tell them how much I appreciate them – and it only cost about $20. It’s the little things….

  2. There is a Sonic across the parking lot from my office. Periodically I give the employees money and send them for ice cream while I take customer inquiries for 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve also started taking one employee to lunch each week

  3. Another great post John! It was relatively commonplace for leaders at all levels of the organization I worked in previously to recognize and reward high performing behaviors – usually in the form of a handwritten thank you note. The added touch that was memorable and impactful for me was that it was always sent to my home. Picking up the mail these days is often a blase’ activity that is wrought with bills and junk mail – hardly ever good news. It was always an uplifting experience to receive such recognition at my home. It took far more effort to hand-write it, address it and send it through the mail system, but the effect of that gesture had a far greater ROI in terms of my engagement and commitment to the organization!

  4. Great post John, I was smiling with you and Karen at Charlene’s beaming response!

    Now what will I do……


  5. I once had a manager that wore a beautiful fuschia pink, long sleeved polo shirt to an after work meeting. He had sliver hair and it looked great on him. I told him that it was outstanding. The next morning when I arrived at my desk, his shirt was laundered and folded neatly on my desk, with a note that said “I want you to have this and I know you will always think of me when you wear it.” I have never forgotten that gesture Major John Jordan of The Salvation Army! He would often cut comic strips or a newspaper article and place them on our door with tape and a hand written note. He was the best at showing appreciation and that he thought about his staff even when he was not at work.

  6. Interesting that Charlene got that from managers at a Target store. I’m glad her store was doing it right. Our son worked for Target a few years ago (before the recession). It was obvious they thought he was a great employee, because they kept giving him more responsibility. However, his managers tended to put down their workers, consistently ignored requests for specific times off, and would even yell at the employees.

  7. The best thing I can do as a team leader is answer emails and texts as quickly as possible. Passing on encouragement and ideas is always appreciated by my team…just today I brought coffee and double chocolate zucchini muffins to one of my team members. It may not sound like much, but we work in school gardens…nothing better than something made from something we grow!
    Loved this blog!

  8. I get excited at the opportunities that present themselves then sometimes overwhelmed at where to begin when I read your blog post. It’s great John! Every week I give someone in my plant a twenty dollar bill. I look for someone who stepped up and did what it took to carry the load through. I just walk up with the bill in my hand that I shake there’s with and tell them great job have a steak on me! Usually(don’t tell or I will stop) no one knows who gets it and they all work towards it each week.

  9. After three years of a “My way or the highway” type principal who destroyed morale at our school we got a new principal last year. Farrah has made us feel good about working at our school. She sincerely cares about our opinions and gives us what we need. One of the most important things she “gave” us was a disciplined school culture allowing us to teach more and put out classroom “fires” less. This was not the case with our previous administration. She is definitely a “cool” principal.

  10. My manager is excellent at appreciating all of us. This reminded me that “cool” managers need to be appreciated, too. I’m going to send mine a card through “snail mail” today so she’ll get it this weekend. Thanks for the reminder that appreciation goes both ways.

  11. I mentioned to my boss that I did not know how he had gone through that ‘break-in’ period with myself, then the trainer hired after me and now with our new trainer. He has to be wondering/worrying that each class we do when still learning is well received and that we did not scare anyone away for good! He answered yes, he does think of that, but said to me “by the way….you were the easiest to train”. Perfect example of the appreciation shown in so many big and small ways through the years!

  12. I love the ideas I want to be a cool manager and I try very hard. My team loves food. I bring food on my dime usually every week. They love the biscuits or bagels and sometimes I cook. I have two new employees on my team I don’t think they no what to do. One came from an enviroment that nothing was ever good enough. Thank yous go a long way also. My VP is also a cool manager she sends cards to me at home. I am going to try that next. Thanks, for some good ideas.

  13. I have worked at Target for 6 years as a second job and one of the reasons I have been able to stay that long is because they value us as individuals. I have received handwritten notes on multiple occasion for various reasons. This leaves long lasting impression. Glad to see that it is not just my store!

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