Leaders Learn from Valentine’s Day

by | Feb 15, 2016

9844049_sValentine’s Day is not a huge event in our household. With 16 years of marriage, we’re past the point of grand gestures, dozens of roses or big gifts…and I like it this way. I like it because it’s the small things that matter. Valentine’s Day now is a time to pause with a card, a kind word and gentle behavior to communicate, “I’m here. I care.” It occurs to me that those are two messages that good leaders should also communicate. I’m here. I care.

I’m here. A leader can say “I’m here for you” all day but it’s behavior that matters. One of the things that I love about the relationship with me and my husband is the ease of partnering on the little things. “Hey, while you’re in the basement, please put the clothes in the dryer and bring up some paper towels.” “Of course, got it.” Or. “While you’re out would you pick up something for dinner?” “Of course, got it.” Back and forth with mutual support to run the household and, in our case, this business.

It’s the same at work. Of course, I understand that there are efficiencies in an office environment so that you use time productively. Still, pitching in to clear the paper plates after an office birthday party, replacing the paper in the copy machine, making coffee when it runs out – the little things say, I’m here for you. We’re a team. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and pitch in when it’s necessary? Are you willing to do little things that help out? Are you partnering with your staff to move the organization forward together? That little bit of time will pay off in commitment and teamwork.

I care. A pop-up card of bright, glittery flowers sits on our kitchen counter. It’s cute. More importantly, it tells me that he cares…still. It’s a simple, powerful message that matters. I’m constantly amazed at how infrequently leaders or managers send a thank you note or pause at an employee’s desk to say, “good job.” Some even tend to go the extent of utilizing websites (like https://packedwithpurpose.gifts/corporate-gifts/employee-gifts/, for example) to buy gifts for their employees on their special occasions. It couldn’t be easier. But we get into a whirlwind of meetings, activities and tasks and forget to let everyone know that you care…still. Try this: Buy a box of old-fashioned thank you notes and keep a stack of them on your desk in plain sight. Train yourself to drop off a card at least once a week. It matters – a lot – to the person who is receiving it, and it causes you to be more attentive to the work of others so that you can a) pick someone to thank, and b) have something meaningful to say. That’s a win for everyone.

If you’re thinking that this seems mushy, consider the neuroscience behind it. First, a thank you note activates the reward network in the brain – for both sender and receiver. Research validates that happy people are more productive people. Couldn’t you use more productive people? And more happy people for that matter? Second, over time actions that communicate “I care and I’m here” forge a sense of connection. People trust and collaborate more easily with those with whom they feel a connection. You’ll create better teamwork and improved cooperation as the staff feel more connected.

These are simple, easy actions that speak volumes. Give it a go today. Pitch in with a small thing and say thank you. An occasional box of chocolates never hurts either.


Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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