FOWLER: Encouraging leaders win | Local News

“Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. … Healthy,

“Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. … Healthy, engaged employees are your top competitive advantage.” – Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

Last week, we looked at how great leaders encourage their teams by looking for the good in everyone and recognizing it, celebrating the wins and sacrificing for your team.

This week, let’s step outside the c-suite and see what organizations can do to build a culture of encouragement and positivity.

According to research by Gallup, nearly two of three workers received no recognition for good work in their workplaces last year and 99 out of 100 say they want a more positive work environment. 

Whether through turnover or poor performance, disengagement is expensive and the cost is supported by more and more evidence.

According to a study cited by Harvard Business Review, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects.

How can we do a better job creating a culture of encouragement that drives happiness and productivity? Here are some ideas to consider for your team.

Gamify Success with Small Wins. Zappos is known for its amazing culture. A culture that was so successful, Zappos was acquired by Amazon for about $1B before Zappos turned 11 years old. One of the ways Zappos gamified their culture was by creating a learning program with lots of small wins. Zappos drastically reduced the time frame between reviews and promotions – creating mini-promotions that celebrated small wins and encouraged their workforce.

Host a “Crush-It” Call. This one comes from the folks at SnackNation who have built their business helping others reward their employees. They have a “crush-it” call every Friday where the team takes turns “crushing” someone for their great work that week and mentioning something they are grateful for.

Create Room for Positivity. If you have a weekly meeting start it off with some humor and gratitude. Have someone start the meeting off with a joke and go around the room allowing everyone to mention something that recently happened that they are thankful for.

Try a Happiness Challenge. The field of positive psychology is booming and lots of employers are seeing tremendous outcomes by helping their employees become more positive. Happiness is a choice that we make each day. We can focus on our blessings and be happy or focus on what we lack, and not be so happy.

Shawn Achor (best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage) put this to the test by asking employees at an international accounting firm to do five things daily – Write down three things you are grateful for. Write for two minutes describing one positive experience you had over the last 24 hours. Exercise for 10 minutes per day. Meditate for two minutes per day. Write one email each morning praising or thanking a team member. 

Achor found that the group that participated in the happiness habits had significantly higher life satisfaction scores than the control group.

Try a Fitness Challenge. Most of us want to be healthier and struggle to reach our health goals. But healthier people are happier and more productive. How can work help its people get healthier? Create a health challenge where people submit their own goals and publicly track their progress. At our office, we met weekly for a “salad” lunch to catch up, talk about our progress, failures and plans to improve. We had a great time, deepened our relationships and came out of tax season a little bit healthier!

Games, Games, Games. Anything you can think of that will give your employees an excuse to talk about something other than work.

Get to Know Your Board. Our relationships deepen when we know more about each other. Set up an online board where team members can share their loves, hopes and dreams. Pick an employee per month to highlight in the internal and external newsletter. Have employees share their Be, Do, Have and Helps (the things that we want to Be, Do, Have and Help during their lifetime). The more we know about each other, the more we care and the more we can help.

Use Your Website (and social media). To highlight your employees’ skills, accomplishments, hobbies and families. This will allow customers and employees to get to know each other better and develop deeper relationships.

Listen. The biggest key to success in life. Listen well and respond. You can do this through an old school suggestion box or a fancy online tool. However you do it, seek input from your people, discuss what you learn and take action wherever you can.

Nicknames. When used well this one is a great source of humor and encouragement. Most of us have probably had some nicknames we’d like to forget, why not give your employees a nickname they’ll be proud of? Make the nickname talent or skill-based to recognize a key talent and encourage continuous improvement of their strengths. 

My father-in-law calls me “Ironman” despite the fact I’ve only done one Ironman in my life and I am very far from being in triathlon shape. Every time he calls me that it encourages me because it reminds me of a big accomplishment. Make sure the nickname is positive and highlights a trait you want to encourage!

What has worked great for your team? Drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to add it to my list.

We love helping leaders build great businesses. If you’d like to learn more you can check out our free resources at or give us a call at (229) 244-1559. We’d love to help you in any way we can.

Curt Fowler is president of Fowler & Company and director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey. He is dedicated to helping leaders build great organizations and better lives for themselves and the people they lead.

Curt is a syndicated business writer, keynote speaker, and business advisor. He has an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.

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