I love November. November is football and family, turning leaves and readying to turn pages to the next year.
November is Thanksgiving. My dad was the safety director for Macy’s, so Thanksgiving was extra special. We’d get up at 4:30AM to drive from our home in central New Jersey into New York City in time to get in costumes and all made up so we could be bussed to our respective floats. When I was four, I shared a float with Bobby Rydell (Google him, he was big). At five, I got to hang with the original Ronald McDonald; known more know for his weather expertise, Willard Scott. by six I’d hit the mother load; the Santa float, just under the big man. If there was YouTube back then you could go back and see what a great toy soldier I was.
I love Thanksgiving because it reminds us to be grateful. And I’ve got a great gratitude story for you, one that has real business applicability.
Recently my warehouse manager pulled me to the side. He wasn’t asking for a raise, rather wanted me to know that he was looking to take a side job to supplement his earnings. He explained that his mortgage broker would only approve a loan for the house he wanted to buy if he was making about fifteen percent more than what I was paying him.
He’d been been with us for three years and at the same salary for almost two; in large part because we thought his work, while satisfactory, was just that: satisfactory. But I couldn’t imagine being a barrier to my employee buying a house and we didn’t want him to be job-hunting, so we offered him the needed money as a raise.
The most amazing thing happened. My warehouse manager started getting to work earlier, he started staying later. He became more proactive… he became a real leader, both in actions and in attitude. He became exactly what I’d asked from him from the start: he was thinking like a partner, like he had a stake in the company’s future.
I had long said that as we grew there would be more opportunities for him. But now, for the first time, without our demanding anything different, my warehouse manager stopped doing satisfactory work: it has become excellent.
There’s really only one explanation, really… gratitude. Yes, we had talked the talk, but by walking the walk, showing him that his interests were intertwined with our interests, our employee transformed into one quite special.
You may think we got lucky. I don’t think so. I believe the better you treat your employees, the better they will treat you. I always felt I had an advantage looking for assistants when I was a personal manager because I always offered health insurance day one. And I never had a senior employee ever ask for more than two weeks of vacation, though my company policy was that there was no company vacation policy. If you did your work and wanted some time off, you would take the time off.
As many of you know, I have been dealing with severe back issues for several months; three herniated discs. When you can’t even take a flight of steps or walking the dog for granted, it reminds you of just how many reasons we have to be grateful… and the importance of letting others know of our gratitude. However much they frustrate us, madden us, confuse us, it is our who keep our businesses open every day. This Thanksgiving, and every day, let them know. I bet the more you let them know it, the more reasons they will give you to be grateful.