This past Sunday I took my 7 year old to his weekly hockey game.
That’s him in the middle. At this age it’s basically a helmet with a stick running after other helmets with sticks for an hour. Not pretty, but they gotta start somewhere! My son’s team is, unfortunately, not very good.
As we watched the teams warm up before their game this Sunday, the vision of the other team taking on-target slap shots from the point while our boys struggled to have stick meet ball, had one parent reminiscing about the Mighty Ducks movies and how while the other team always looked so good, the Ducks won in the end. (btw has anyone seen Emilio Estevez?) No such luck, we lost 1-0 and are now 0-4 on the season, but we have come really far over the past 4 weeks. The kids know where to go, the position they play and what direction to shoot. This was not the case the first week when we lost 7-0.
I did not put too much thought into the improvement the team has made until I was walking out the door with my son, going over some of the key plays he made and trying to distract him from asking me to take him for the obligatory post game treat. As we were about to leave, his coach came running over, crouched down next to him and spent the next 15 seconds going over all the great things my son did during the game. He got up and ran to the next kid and did the exact same thing. Then another.
I was amazed at what he was doing, not that I haven’t been amazed by the coach before. Last Saturday he had a baby and was still at the game on Sunday. This Sunday he made a Bris in the morning and was at the game in the afternoon. What was amazing was that the coach was not only making each kid feel special, but he had figured out the key to elevating his team, recognition. Nothing is more of a motivation to repeat a behavior then being told that said behavior was the right behavior. When a kid hears that he did right, he can’t wait to come back the next week and do it again.
Employees are like kids, except for the whole paycheck thing. The best way to motivate an employee and get them to repeat the great things they do is to recognize them for it. As managers we need to get our from behind our desks more often and recognize our employees accomplishments in real time, not at performance review time. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a timely, detailed message about something they have done well. Once they see and hear that they have been recognized there is little doubt that they are incentivized to do it again.
After the first game my son asked if he could switch teams, he couldn’t handle losing 7-0 every week. Since that first week he hasn’t asked again. Now he looks forward to having the chance to show his coach what he can do. They say the number one reason employees leave an organization is their manager. I’m sure this is true, but what part of management is it? I know one thing is for sure, if an employee feels like they are doing a good job and no one is noticing they are going to find someone who will notice. As long as they feel like their work is being recognized they will definitely stick around.