Woodbury:Farm Family Business 01/30 11:05
Leadership From Outside
The power of acknowledging others -- especially family members -- provides
an invaluable role to the success of your business.
By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser
With respect to job performance, many family business members often joke "no
news is good news." What they mean is that people in the company shouldn't
expect to be complimented for their good work. They go on to justify this
attitude by statements such as "People shouldn't receive praise for doing what
is expected of them" or "I wasn't raised hearing compliments from my parents."
I'm not suggesting praise for substandard work; this kind of acknowledgement
can come across as inauthentic. However, recognizing another person's good work
or efforts in the family business is important and has several benefits.
1. Reinforces each person's value. The act of acknowledging someone's good
work sends a deeper, underlying message. It tells them they have value, they
mean something in your efforts to build a business, and there is a purpose to
their work. It gives the recipients of your praise confirmation their labors
are making a difference.
Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, has written that
"Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more
precious than the feeling that we truly matter -- that we contribute unique
value to the whole, and that we're recognized for it."
In too many family businesses, recognition of each person's purpose and
value is often assumed by virtue of the family relationship. As a result, the
praise tends to go unspoken. The thinking is "you are valued because you are my
son or my daughter, my wife or my husband," not because of the specific
contribution you make to the family business. Consider verbally recognizing the
good work done by family members to give both short-term and long-term
reinforcement of their value.
2. Sets the tone for productivity. Acknowledging someone's accomplishments
shines a light on what they've achieved. And since getting things done is a
hallmark of organizational progress, recognizing and celebrating an
individual's success encourages momentum, providing a shot of energy to
additional forward movement.
In a family business, however, the ownership idea that "someday this will
all be yours" is often expected to be enough of a carrot to keep people engaged
over the long haul. Instead of telling family members "good job," we expect
them to remember that they will inherit the business. A shorter-term
reinforcement and positive comment on their work reminds them they are moving
in the right direction. Such remarks can help ensure high levels of
3. Positively impacts culture. Giving only negative feedback reinforces
individual feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, fosters a lousy
workplace environment, and creates high turnover and low morale. Such results
spell trouble for rural and agricultural businesses needing a qualified labor
force. When your workplace develops a reputation for negativity, your ability
to attract quality help decreases. Your culture is seen as "toxic."
A culture of sincere recognition not only helps people feel better about
themselves, but also where they work. The families I've seen express gratitude
for one another's efforts seem to enjoy a more pleasant work environment. Their
appreciation of others often starts with those in the family and spreads to
others in the organization. Voicing gratefulness is a foundational habit on
which a positive culture is built. The resultant fun, deeper relationships and
enjoyment of one another is the evidence of this positive culture.
What does it cost to recognize a family member for doing good work?
Alternatively, what might it cost your organization if people don't feel
recognized for their efforts? I realize in a family business environment it can
be awkward to verbally acknowledge our loved ones. However, an investment in
recognizing someone can truly benefit everyone.
Editor's Note: Lance Woodbury writes columns for both DTN and our sister
publication, "The Progressive Farmer." He is a Garden City, Kan., author,
consultant and professional mediator specializing in agriculture and
Copyright 2015 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.
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