By Nicholas Hall Sunday evenings are usually spent watching the Home & Garden Television channel with my wife, Jennifer, but a few weeks ago we decided to watch an award show. Over the course of a couple of hours, we listened as winners gave thanks and acknowledgment to those people who had contributed to their success. Admittedly, it's easier to show appreciation when you're on top. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy trying to get our share of the pie that we forget to show our appreciation of others. In business, genuine appreciation is often saved for retirement and yearend holiday parties.
Watching the award show and thinking about the rat race in the business world leads me to the Second Most Important Law of Business: Appreciate Others. (For the first law, see BW Online, 7/30/01, "The First Law of Business: Be Good to Yourself".) What every person wants is to feel appreciated. In fact, every survey I have ever read claims that an employee's No. 1 factor for staying with a company is whether or not he or she feels appreciated.
RATING THE BOSS. Big businesses can often survive mediocre employee morale. For a small business, however, it can be fatal. Most small businesses can't afford the same types of financial benefits as their larger counterparts, so it's vitally important that employees of small businesses know they are appreciated. They need to know their efforts make a difference.
When thinking about this column, I realized that I had not taken the time to ask my team members if they felt appreciated. Frankly, I just assumed that they did. So I sent my team members an e-mail and asked them to give me a rating of 1 to 10. A score of 1 meant they did not feel appreciated, 10 meant that I exceeded their expectations. I was relieved to find out that I scored well -- and they were glad I took the time to ask.
This exercise prompted me to think about all the people who have contributed to my achievements over the years. I wondered if they knew how much I appreciated their contributions. My parents were incredibly generous and patient in seeking the best treatment available for my heart condition. That allowed me to live a normal childhood. My eighth-grade basketball coach, Mr. Woods, believed in me, and his confidence allowed me to believe in myself. Several homeowners hired my college painting crew to paint their house. Looking back, I realize they had very nice homes and allowing some college kids to paint them showed incredible confidence in us. I have had roller coaster ups and downs in my young entrepreneurial career, yet so many people have believed in me and been willing to work with me in less than ideal conditions.
THE GIFT OF SUPPORT. Think of the experiences at various companies and with different teams you have had over your career. What were the times that you cherish the most? I would bet that they were periods when you felt your work made a difference and your employer appreciated you.
Today, I decided to put my second law of business into practice. I sent an appreciation letter and a small gift to nearly 75 people who have made a difference in my life. Whether you are still climbing the ladder or have already gotten your piece of the pie, this is the perfect time to show others your appreciation for the difference their work makes. Take the time to ask your employees if they feel appreciated and what they want to be acknowledged for. Then, let them know how much you value their efforts. Believe me, the reward will soon follow. Nicholas Hall is the founder of Possibility Productions, a company that sells discounts tickets to high-tech conferences. Before starting Possibility Productions in 2001, he was president of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs and founded the international success, Startupfailures.com.