Who’s Got Your Back?

And are you looking out for them? Many business owners and executives forget to express gratitude to the employees who keep the trains running – and it can be a costly mistake.

Quick, make a mental list of the people whom you depend on to be happy, healthy and successful. Chances are it includes your family members, friends, co-workers, employees, trusted professional, clients, vendors, health care professionals, and others.

Now, ask yourself the question: How am I looking out for them?

Chances are that you are doing a pretty good job of expressing your gratitude to the people in your immediate circle (family and friends). But what about everyone else – especially your employees?

In our roles as business owners, executives or managers, it is easy to find our focus fixed on projects and outcomes rather than people and relationships. When this happens, we often find ourselves isolated, frustrated and unable to properly motivate others toward what we hope are our shared goals.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, I have some ideas that will help you change things for the better and prevent the predicable “disconnect” that so often occurs when we take our people for granted.

But first, please consider this:  If up to now, you have been an owner/leader who genuinely doesn’t care how your people feel or think about the way you run your company, these concepts may create a whole new opportunity to re-engage the hearts and minds of your people in a mutually beneficial way.

As an executive coach, I often work with owners/leaders who have not yet grasped the truth of how their employees are looking out for them. So much so, that they do not realize that they are way behind in expressing gratitude to their workforce.


OWNER CARE: This is a phrase I created to communicate to business owners (and managers) all of the things their employees do to support and protect them – that they as owners are not even aware of. Owner care activities include all of the customer problems, vendor issues, personnel conflicts and minor disasters that dedicated employees resolve every day before they rise to the level of “telling the boss.” It also includes not doing exactly what the boss said, but rather doing what is necessary to get the outcome the boss wants (especially when the boss is not a subject expert in that area).

In healthy companies, owner care activities continually free up the mind of the owner/leader to both vision and implement needed changes toward growth and success. But that is only part of the process. Unless the owner/leader recognizes that all of this is taking place just below the surface, he or she will not properly return the gratitude and effort needed to keep the employees motivated to continue performing owner care actions.

If you have not considered how much your people do to actually have your back via owner care activities, here are some practical ways to show your appreciation:

  • Personal attention: Every person in your company appreciates personal one-on-one time with you. So, slow down, sit down and get down to a real conversation with employees on a regular basis. Before you were a boss, you were a regular person with the same “stuff” that they deal with every day. If you don’t know the names of your employees’ kids (and maybe even their dog or cat) – that is a great place to start. Before they can really know you, they need to be known by you.
  • Public recognition: Employees appreciate being recognized for outstanding performance. Often, owners and executives will delegate the public recognition of their performance to their direct supervisor. While there is nothing wrong with this per se, it represents a major missed opportunity for the owner/leader to elevate the importance of the achievement in a very public way that connects them to the employee and shows their personal gratitude for the extra effort. Owner recognition is powerful.
  • Professional respect: When introducing an employee to a new customer, vendor or other professional, the owner/leader has the opportunity to use the employee’s proper title, share a recent award or achievement and elevate the employee in the mind of the other person. Too often (and without conscious thought), owners/leaders often use the introduction process as a way of elevating themselves at the expense of the employee’s professional reputation. It may be done in a kidding way, but it is not appreciated by the employee. Example: “Let me introduce you to Joe; I’m not sure what all he does, but I know it’s important.” (Supposed to be funny – but it is not!)
  • Primary importance: Every employee interaction provides the owner/leader with the opportunity to reinforce the employee’s importance to the team or to diminish their role and contributions. Small encouragements, even in the face of mistakes from the owner/leader, go a long way in binding the employee to the company and its goals. Again, an often-overlooked opportunity to express gratitude.
  • Proper use of power: Owners/leaders who take every employee interaction as an opportunity to reassert their position of authority totally misuse their power and undermine their own agenda. Every employee understands who the boss is. It is the boss’s job to help them understand that he/she is there to support their efforts with the tools and resources of the company. That is the proper use of owner/leader power.

Every organization is a reflection of the collective personalities, goals and interactions of its leaders and employees. Too often, a genuine lack of expressed gratitude on the part of the owner/leader tremendously lessens the power of the company to stand out in the marketplace against its competitors.

If you are an owner/leader who has neglected or never really considered how much power you have to positively leverage the goodwill of your employees, I invite you to ponder and apply these principles. I have used them to great effect in my own companies and continually help my coaching clients implement them in theirs. 

Trust me when I tell you that your gratitude, expressed in these powerful ways, will bless you and your employees in ways you can’t even imagine. Please let me know when they do.

Till then, I will be praying and cheering for your success!