By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker

How can you spread the true spirit of the holiday season in your business? Give the following 8 powerful gifts that money can’t buy. Oftentimes, intangible gifts trump material ones. Whether you are a business owner, a manager, a team leader, or a co-worker, you have the power to give these gifts and, in the process, unlock unlimited potential in all your fellow team members.

GIFT #1 ENCOURAGEMENT

How do you feel when someone offers you encouragement? Everyone, at all levels, has doubts from time to time. Genuine encouragement clears away their doubts and empowers your people:

  • You reawaken their motivation to stick with a tough assignment
  • You inspire them to deal with the mundane, repetitive tasks and to overcome the frustrations that can derail projects.
  • You galvanize people to discover new abilities, determination, and resilience at a higher level than what they have ever experienced before.
  • You can enable everyone to get out of his or her rut and find innovative ways of operating.

GIFT #2 RECOGNITION

Anyone lost in a warren of cubicles or sitting on a long desk in a busy open workspace can feel insignificant and as if no one really appreciates what they do. Take the time to stop by your employees’ desks and visit with them for a moment. Ask them about their work and show interest in what they are doing. At general meetings, show public appreciation by giving credit for a job well done. You can show people that their work is worthwhile, and you can raise workers’ self-esteem and productivity with the simple gift of recognition. If you are a business owner, you can build recognition into your compensation structure by rewarding your producers with a portion of the profits they helped create. What better way to get everyone working for the same goal?

GIFT #3 GRATITUDE

A simple “thank you” can go a long way to making someone feel appreciated. Akin to recognition, gratitude reduces friction in the workplace because employees know that you are grateful for their work and dedication. When someone goes beyond their job description by taking on extra work or by developing an innovative way to solve a customer or productivity problem, take the time to express thanks. Showing gratitude encourages employees to continue to not only meet – but beat – expectations. Gratefulness can be infectious. Those who are thanked will be more likely to thank others, creating a positive cycle that will unlock a culture of goodwill in the workplace.

GIFT #4: EMPOWERMENT

When you give assignments, empower your employees with the resources to get the job done without the need for you to micromanage or second-guess them. Challenge your workers and then get out of their way! Let them problem-solve, deliver on promises, and develop new initiatives. Create a workplace where employees are free to question the status quo, look beyond the boundaries of present-day solutions, and bring forth ideas that will not get lost in a strict chain-of-command, bureaucratic hoops, or threatened egos. Empowerment can open the door to innovation and productivity.

GIFT # 5 LISTENING

Listening is the most powerful tool you can use to learn about other people, improve communication, and meet your customers’ needs. It’s a skill available to us all, yet so few take the time to learn how to use it well. As Bernard Baruch said, “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” Listening is an art. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleSteven Covey says that you need to practice empathetic listening. Mr. Covey explains that when you practice empathetic listening, it reveals your character and it colors the entire communication process. Instead of listening to fulfill your preconceived expectations or to solve your customer’s need with your product or service no matter what, take notes (if that helps you stay focused) and ask questions for clarity. Dedicate yourself to staying in the moment and listening to really hear what other people want to convey. Seek to understand even if you don’t agree or have a solution to offer. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn about other people in general and your customer’s likes, dislikes, needs and wants.

GIFT #6 RESPECT

Respect is a two-way street between employees and employers. You can set the tone and foster respect in your company’s culture by giving many of the gifts already mentioned: empowerment, recognition, and listening. In a Forbes article by Lisa Quast on building respect, she cites how Starbuck’s former president Howard Behar showed employees respect and how that helped create Starbuck’s culture. “All employees are called ‘partners’ and there is no separation in any way of partners and the management team. Outside of pay and stock, every partner gets the same, even the same health insurance. We did this because it was the right thing to do, not because we thought it would help us build respect.”

GIFT #7 TRUST

When you extend trust, you lay the foundation for building a solid relationship – inside or outside your company. A company cannot thrive without a sense of trust at the center of its culture. Without it, employees will always be looking over their shoulders, uncertain of where they stand with the company. An article by Kate Taylor in Entrepreneur magazine showed how there are eight drivers for building trust in an organization. The eight drivers of what’s called the Jacob’s Model are summarized in an infographic. When I formed USI, I set out to base the business on a foundation of trust and integrity. This basis freed our partners and our work force to be innovative and to focus on building our business rather than spending time with internal politics. If you extend trust to your customers and to your own workers, you will unlock the full potential of your business.

GIFT #8 FORGIVENESS    

In an entrepreneurial company – or any company – mistakes are bound to be made. A culture that encourages forgiveness begets a culture that encourages innovation and risk-taking. Forgiveness engenders trust, and trust builds strong companies. Writing in Forbes, David K. Williams said in his article, Forgiveness: The Least Understood Leadership Trait in the workplace,that forgiveness is one of the great leadership traits. He cited Abraham Lincoln as an example of a leader who forgave. When criticized for encouraging benevolent treatment of the former Confederates, Lincoln said, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” Williams also used Gandhi’s approach to forgiveness as a model when he said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

THE INTANGIBLES: GIFTS MONEY CAN’T BUY

As we wrote in a previous blog on “Positivity,” psychologist Shawn Achor claims that a positive workplace gives a company a great competitive advantage. He explained, “When you are positive, your brain becomes more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This discovery has been borne out repeatedly by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the world.”

When you give the 8 powerful gifts we’ve outlined here, you can create a positive workplace and unlock great potential in your people. But don’t confine the gifts to just the holiday season. Give these gifts the year ‘round.

We hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Ed and Wyn

Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book, The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business, with Wyn Lydecker.

They are currently offering a complimentary eCopy of The Startup Roadmap: 21 Steps to Profitability here.

Copyright © 2015 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.

Ed is the founder & CEO of Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and angel investment firm based in Darien, CT. He also founded and served as chairman and CEO of United Systems Integrators (USI) Corporation, a corporate real estate outsourcing firm.

He earned Entrepreneur of the Year honors in 2001 from Ernst & Young, and USI was named to the Inc. 500 List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies. In 2005, he sold USI to Johnson Controls (JCI), a global leader in automotive, battery, and control systems. Ed then became CEO of JCI’s
Global WorkPlace Business for the Americas.

Earlier in his career, Ed was a partner with Trammell Crow Company, a global real estate firm, and worked at IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

A member of the Board of Governors for Tufts Medical Center, Ed founded its David E. Wazer Breast Cancer Research Fund. He graduated from The College of the Holy Cross where he is a member of the Board of Trustees.

Ed is the author of The Startup Roadmap: 21 Steps to Profitability and The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth About Starting and Building Your Own Business, both books for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business leaders.

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