Care Package: A Leadership Style that Promotes Productivity, Passion, and Peace

In fast growing companies, it is essential to have an innovative, motivated, productive workforce. A recent Roper poll found that employee morale and job satisfaction in US companies are at their lowest level since Roper began doing polls decades ago. Last year, USA Today reported that 42 percent of American workers felt "used up." Overwhelming change, stress, and communication issues are taking their toll in many organizations today, but in fast growing companies, workplace dissatisfaction can be fatal. That's why leaders need to focus at least as much on human beings and values as they do on systems and processes. You can keep employee spirit high by showing that you CARE:

C: Creative Communication

For many organizations, communication has become a deep rut full of dreary memos, dismal and unending meetings, and negative feedback. In fast growing companies, good communication is vital, and to be impactful, communication must be creative. Studies show that the average adult must hear something at least six times before it is internalized. Fast growing companies do not have this luxury, so they must communicate in a way that gets employees' attention immediately. For example, one manager staples a Kleenex to any memo he thinks his staff is not going to like to get their attention and take some of the sting away!

One way leaders can implement better internal communication is to increase employee involvement and buy-in by getting their input before decisions are made so that they feel a part of the changes in the organization. Hold "grapevine" meetings spontaneously whenever the rumor mill is in high gear and let employees ask questions that are on their minds. Then give honest answers. Many studies have shown that employees want to be told the truth. They can handle it, and honesty from the top will build a level of trust throughout the organization. For example, many fast growing companies are using Open Book management, allowing all employees to know the exact financial state of the organization.

A: Atmosphere and Appreciation for All

Leaders in fast growing companies need to create an atmosphere conducive to innovation, freedom, and fun in the workplace, an atmosphere that is full of vitality and makes people feel good about coming to work. For example, hold a poster party and invite employees to draw favorite inspirational quotations. Then display the posters in the office, hallway, or break area. Encourage workplace joy by being willing to poke fun at yourself. How about placing a dart board in the break room with a different senior manager's picture on it each week!

Appreciation goes much farther than monetary rewards, and a handshake, pat on the back, or personal note from a senior manager will excite and motivate employees for weeks at a time. Become a grateful company. Model this commitment by learning employees' names and thanking at least five people every day. One senior manager gives each of his direct reports five paper silhouettes of his hand at the beginning of each year as a special thank you for work well done. Each paper hand represents one hour of his time which the employee can use for anything from answering telephones, sorting mail, mowing their lawn, or walking their dog. Many delightful hours of teasing are spent on just how the coupons will be used, and above all, the employees feel important and valued!

R: Respect and Reason for Being

Employees in today's world are starving for respect. John Naisbitt in Megatrends said, "The more high technology around us, the more the need for human touch." One company decided to meet this challenge by throwing away its time clocks. This management trusted its employees to work appropriate hours to get the job done without having to endure what they referred to as "the humiliation of punching in clocks."

Leaders in fast growing companies must show their commitment in visible, creative ways, by being involved with employees and not sitting in their offices with doors shut. Spend at least one hour every day out on the frontlines and ask employees how you can help them. Southwest Airlines has a mandate that every manager must spend 33 1/3% or his or her time directly out with customers and employees. Once a month reward employees with spontaneous treats--rent an ice cream truck, a popcorn machine, or deliver a "Payday" bar with their paychecks. They will love it! Involve employees' families whenever possible and be compassionate towards family needs.

In nearly every current business publication articles and stories abound on the struggle to find meaning in one's work. Build your organization on a set of core values and then model these values in your own behavior. Encourage employees to add a personal signature to their work. Write your personal mission statement--who you are and what your work is--and share it with employees. Then encourage them to write their own. When hospital employees did this, a person on the trayline wrote:

Kind words, helping hands, caring heart, striving to meet the needs of those in my care (my fellow employees, the patients, and their families). A true devotion to work that I have been doing.

E: Empathy and Enthusiasm

Demonstrating concern and understanding does wonders for employees' morale. For example, one manager bought popsicles for everyone after the air-conditioning went out. Valuing diversity and creating a social consciousness will raise the level of existence for employees. Involvement in a community project such as helping build housing for the homeless or a playground for inner city children allows them a chance to give back to the world. Encourage employees who want to share extra vacation time with co-workers in crisis. Give employees the gift of understanding that the job is not their whole life.

Rather than the homogeneity desired in the past, fast growing companies celebrate differences and realize the strength of many individuals making up a team. Successful leaders let people be who they are, and they, too, are authentic and real. Share your personal vision and dreams with your employees, and they will respond in kind. As Francis Likert said many years ago, "If a high level of performance is to be achieved, it appears necessary for a manager to have high perfoemance goals and a contagious enthusiasm as to the importance of these goals." Are you a contagiously enthusiastic leader?

Celebrate everything! When employees love their work and feel valued, they will give their all. Emphasize the positives. One organization holds a voluntary "Good News" hour once a week for 30 minutes before starting time in the lobby of the building. Not only is there almost 100% attendance, but employees are so enthusiastic about this special time together that they even come in when they are on vacation just to hear how everyone is doing!

Kenneth Kovach in Employment Relations Today Vol.22, No.2 discusses a study conducted in 1946, 1981, and1995, in which employees were asked to list ten common work place rewards in order of their motivational impact. Every year the results have been the same. The top three things employees want are:

(1) Interesting work

(2) Full appreciation for the work they've done and

(3) A feeling of being "in" on things

In fast growing companies it becomes essential that employees are innovative, committed, and willing to stretch to meet new demands, and this will only happen when leaders meet their needs for finding trust, value, and a sense of meaning in their work. Let the CARE acronym for a spirited workplace underly all your decisions as a leader. When employees talk energetically about their company using words like "we" and "they" instead of "them" and "us," then you will know you have succeeded!


About the author


For free articles you can use in your company newsletters and an archive of dozens of immediately applicable “Ideas of the Month,” go to Barbara Glanz, CSP, works with organizations that want to improve morale, retention, and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the author of Balancing Acts — More than 250 Guiltfree, Creative Ideas to Blend your Work and your Life (Dearborn 2003), Handle with CARE — Motivating and Retaining Employees (McGraw-Hill 2002), CARE Packages for the Workplace -- Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work (McGraw-Hill 1996), The Creative Communicator (McGraw-Hill 1998), CARE Packages for the Home (Andrews McMeel 1998), and Building Customer Loyalty (McGraw-Hill 1994). As an internationally known speaker, trainer, and business consultant who has a Master’s degree in Adult Education, Barbara lives and breathes her personal motto: "Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™." She has presented on six continents and in all 50 states since 1995. For more information, she can be reached directly at 941-312-9169; Fax 941-349-8209; email:; website:

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