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Monday, December 24, 2012

Sage Advice from a 2000-Year-Old Slave

"The first person you lead is yourself."  
                                                           -Epictetus of  Hierapolis  55 to 135 C.E.

Standing in line at the register the other day in Portland, I couldn’t help overhearing the women on her cell phone in front of me.

Her mother had abused her. Her employer didn’t appreciate her. Her kids disrespected her. By the time she was done, I could have sworn I heard the sun was too bright outside and the birds were singing too loud.

Some things never change…

If a citizen of ancient Greece or Rome were magically transported into the modern era, he would be astounded by the current state of agriculture, transportation, housing, medicine, architecture, technology, and living standards.

But humanity itself would offer few surprises. We remain the same flawed human beings we always were, struggling with the same human faults our ancestors wrestled with millennia ago.

That is why ancient philosophers still speak to us—if we listen. The wisdom of the classical world transcends place and time.

The Stoic philosophy, for example, dominated the ancient world for nearly 600 years, beginning in the late 4th century B.C.E.

Stoics believed that reason was supreme. Tranquility is only achieved, they taught, by suppressing irrational emotions—like regrets about the past—and accepting life’s unavoidable disappointments and setbacks.

One of the great exponents of Stoicism was a slave named Epictetus, born around 55 C.E. in the east outreaches of the Roman Empire.

Epictetus had few advantages in life. Aside from being born into slavery, he had a permanent physical disability. And he was poor, living a simple life in a small hut with no possessions.

Yet he became one of the leading thinkers of his age. When Epictetus was freed from slavery—we still don’t know how—he set up a philosophical school on the northwest coast of Greece, spending his days lecturing on how to live with dignity and tranquility.

As his reputation for wisdom grew, people flocked to hear him. One of his most distinguished students was the young Marcus Aurelius Antonius, who became ruler of the Roman Empire.

Epictetus was not one for airy theories (Read: The Secret). In his view, the job of philosophy is to help ordinary people deal with the challenges of everyday life. And his words, captured in a great book, The Art of Living, are a wise today as when he spoke them nearly 2,000 years ago:

“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly you own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.

One of the clearest marks of the moral life is right speech….Glib talk disrespects others. Breezy self-disclosure disrespects yourself….If need be, be mostly silent or speak sparingly.

Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can’t control the impressions others from about us, and the effort to do so debases our character. So, if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don’t bother with excuses of defenses. Just smile and reply, I guess that person doesn’t know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.”

Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. Once you have determined the spiritual principles you wish to exemplify, abide by these rules as if they were laws.”

Epictetus had a deep understanding of human beings, of society…and of life. But he also understood death, too.

“I must die. If the time is now, I’m ready…How will I die? Like a man who gives up what belongs to another….A good death can only come from a good life.”

Epictetus argued that our prime motivation should be inner achievements, not outer ones. The right attitudes and values allow you to flourish no matter what the external world throws at you. Inner achievement lays the foundation for peace, tranquility, and personal freedom. And so he taught that true success comes from focusing ourselves within:

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose to respond to them.

“If someone irritates you, it is only your own response that is irritating you. Therefore, when anyone seems to be provoking you, remember that it is only your judgment of the incident that provokes you.”

“Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone if foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether if be others or oneself.”
If anyone is unhappy, remember that his unhappiness is his own doing…Nothing else is the cause of anxiety or loss of tranquility except our own opinion.”

“He is wise who doesn’t grieve for the things he doesn’t have, but rejoices for the things he does have.”

“Fortify yourself with contentment, for it is an impregnable fortress.

Whether you are janitor or a CEO, Epictetus insists that your main job in life---your most important work---is improving yourself. Yet, always a realist, he emphasized moral progress over moral perfection.

Today Epictetus is widely recognized as the world’s first philosopher of personal freedom (Victor Frankel picks up on the theme in Man’s Search for Meaning). Its attainment, he insisted, is the result of mastering our thoughts, yielding to the inevitable, pursuing virtue rather than wealth and diverting our attention from constant desire, yearning and attachment.

In a modern translation of the Art of Living, philosophical writer Sharon Lebell observes that, “His was a moral teaching stripped of sentimentality, piousness, a and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. What remains is the West’s first and best primer for living the best possible life.”

Ironic, isn’t it? A man born into slavery was among the first to show us a path to personal liberation.

“Anyone is free who lives as he wishes to live,” said Epictetus. “And no one is free who is not mater of himself.”

In the words of another Stoic, Seneca:

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”

Peter Mclees

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life and Leadership Lessons from "It's a Wonderful Life"

Most of us have seen the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A lot of us have seen the film many times because it tells such a timeless and compelling story about how any one life can positively impact so many others. While the movie holds many life lessons, we feel it has a few leadership lessons as well.

For those who have not seen it,  “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the story of George Bailey—a man who serves and sacrifices for others. The Bailey Building and Loan lends money to poor people many of them would not own a home were it not for the BBL.  Mr. Potter, the arch villain in the film, is a greedy old man who thrives on exploiting people in Bedford Falls. He continually threatens the Bailey Building and Loan’s survival.

George Bailey is in conflict between his obligations and his dreams—He wants to get out of the small town of Bedford Falls (George remarked, “ I want to shake the dust off my feet of this shabby little town and see the world. I've got big ideas and big plans and I want to build big things.”) And as he said to his father at dinner one night—“I want to do something big and important.” His father replies: “In a small way we are doing something important—man has a fundamental urge to own a roof over his head.”

George’s ambitions are thwarted by old man Potter’s schemes. After his Father died George is on his way out of town. In a character defining moment George agrees to stay dashing his dreams of far-flung adventure—creating instead a more intimate adventure that has a far greater impact on his personal world.

The film shows that real influence comes not from title or rank (as George had no formal title in the town such as Mayor) but from attempting to connect and help the people around us.

The movie also shows us that as we make ourselves available to others with courage and caring our lives develop meaning and a legacy is created, not necessarily along the paths we intended but in small acts that make a difference. George Bailey shows that if we respond with generosity and compassion our lives would have meant something. But he didn't realize this fact until the end of the movie.

Scene: George, faced with financial and personal crisis and feeling that he never made it. He attempts suicide and Clarence his guardian angel (Read: life coach) gives him a privileged look at the impact of his life on the people in Bedford Falls

George Bailey only understands the dramatic difference he made when he sees what Bedford Falls became had he never lived.

Scene: George, in desperation and shock is walking along the snow-covered streets of what is now called Potterville—a town overrun by greed and selfishness.

Clarence  says “Strange isn't it, each man’s life touches so many other lives and when his isn't around he leaves an awful hole.”

In one of the most famous (and emotional) scenes in movie history: When the townspeople all came to George's house to contribute to the BBL deficit, George finally understands how his life of service has created deep commitment to him from the town’s people (when he was in need) even though he didn't know it.

George has a wealth far beyond material goods or power. Frank Capra reminds us that there is no substitute for relationships of integrity, trust and caring. Relationships that are forged through consistent acts of service.

Whatever our position, if we influence the lives of those around us, we are engaged in the act of leadership. And if we are leaders in any sense, we are also creating a legacy as we live our daily lives. Our leadership legacy is the sum total of the difference we make in people's lives, directly and indirectly, formally and informally.

George Bailey had created an enduring legacy because of his acts of caring, compassion, and courage.

Cheers to a new year and another chance to make a difference.

Peter Mclees

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rest in Peace Zig Ziglar

I am genuinely saddened by the news of the passing of Zig Ziglar, “the world’s most popular motivational speaker”. Because I’m grateful for the wisdom he shared, I’m compelled to help preserve his legacy.

My Favorite Zig Ziglar Keepers:

“You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people to get what they want!”

“The most important persuasion tool you have in your arsenal is integrity.”

“The way you see people is the way you treat people.”

 “Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

“You cannot make it as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific.”

 “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing-that's why we recommend it daily."

“Every choice you make has an end result.”

“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust."

“It’s not what you’ve got it’s what you use that makes a difference.”

I was privileged to personally hear Zig speak. It was at one of those motivational extravaganzas in 1987.  His presentation inspired this post about the place where I first gained wisdom and inspiration from him.

Rest in peace Zig Ziglar! Your wisdom and spirit live on.

Peter Mclees

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Top 40 Random Thoughts for Elevating Holiday Spirits

Yuletide Greetings ~

It was the week before Christmas last year when I was sitting in the my World Headquarters (My favorite chair) listening to that song “We Need A Little Christmas”. I was not in the Ho! Ho! Ho! holly jolly holiday mood. My outlook was more like Bah! Bah! Bah!...Humbug! "This too shall pass" (meaning the holidays). I didn't like my state of mind so I set out to change the way I was feeling. I made a list of things I've done in the past, could do again, as well as some new things and random thoughts to create laughter, perspective and a sense of well being for myself and those around me.  It's funny how just writing things down boosted my spirits. And when I actually did some of  them---Wowzy Zowzy!

[I apologize for the for the long list but I was on a roll ]

1. Find a way to make a friend, a family member, a co worker or a stranger feel like a million bucks today. It is the best way to get rich quick because you instantly feel like a million bucks yourself when you do.
2. Why not listen to some commercial free (almost) Christmas music here
3. Commit to hearty laughter at least once a day. Once you do that, make sure you help others do the same! Methinks we are taking ourselves way too seriously! I know I do at times.
4. Forgive someone.
5. Be a kid again. We won’t tell anyone!

6. Understand that other than the “5 Golden Rings” in The 12 Days of Christmas, someone basically cleaned out their attic and was trying to unload junk. I mean what am I supposed to do with a bunch of Lords a leaping? Just put them over there next to the swans a swimming, Cabin boy!
7. Sing along to a holiday song. Rinse and repeat!
8. Volunteer at the local shelter or senior home.

9. Take a coworker out to lunch or coffee . . . just because.
10. Between now and the end of the year include messages of hope and inspiration in your status updates.
11. Grab a hot chocolate or some spiked egg nog and look at some Christmas lights.
12. Give someone a few extra minutes of your time.
13. Take at least one opportunity to bite your tongue. (This one's tough for me)
14. Over tip someone who deserves it. (This one's easy)

15. Understand that laughing at the song “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is sick. Would you really laugh if your Grandmother got run over by a reindeer? What’s next? Grandpa got burned to death roasting chestnuts over a raging fire.
16. Forgive your parents already. Like they didn’t forgive us for the stuff we pulled?
17. Evict negativity from your life. Seek out good. Its there! In the words of Dwitt Jones, "Celebrate What's Right with the World."

18. Give someone the gift of your undivided attention.
19. Tell a loved one how much they mean to you. Unfortunately, there’s an expiration date on this crazy thing we call life! And if by chance you lost that person . . . find a way to honor them!
20. Plan a family night.
21. Find something inspirational and then pass it to your network because quite frankly, we all need a shot in the arm from time to time.
22. Encourage someone. Its free.
23. Answer this question: What am I most grateful for? Take inventory and count the upside.

24. Stop striving for Norman Rockwell Christmas moments. Understand that the beauty of his art was in capturing the chaos and even celebrating it. Might be a lesson in that crazy thought.
25. Donate some food to the local food pantry. They get hit hard this time of year.

26. Change the words to one of your favorite holiday songs. Personally, I like singing “Walking in my winter wacky wear" (Like those embarrassing red sweat pants that only my dogs accept me in) to the tune of “Walking in a winter wonderland”.

27. Commit to wearing your spirit on your sleeve! As William James remarked, "Act as if your cheerful and you'll eventually feel cheerful."
28. Listen to the lyrics of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and then ask yourself, What’s the deal with that Figgy Pudding and who the heck do they think they are threatening us that “We won’t go until we get some” I wish the person who wrote that song would have stepped back to realize that people are willing to get indignant over a Baileys or a bowl of Candy Cane Joe-Joe's and ice cream, but a figgy pudding? Don’t have any, but help yourself to those Lords a leapin over there instead skipper!

29. Sing a duet of “Baby its cold outside” and then realize that the cacophony that just occurred with your singing is precisely why you both need to keep working your day jobs.
30. Don't OD on the news. Take it in bite sized pieces. They make mega bucks with negativity . . . we don’t!
31. Find a way to create a memory and then visit that memory often! Someday we will refer to today as “The good old days” Make 'em count!
32. 101 Christmas Videos can be viewed online by clicking here
33. Go to a tree lighting, a children’s Christmas concert to get that hometown vibe going!
34. When you find yourself in an exceptionally good mood, don’t ever let anyone take your joy away from you.

35. Mend a fence. Lose the ego and repeat after me “I'm sorry” ( I know that phrase can stick in my craw sometimes). Try it and it will lighten your load.
36. Catch up with someone you lost touch with.
37. Let someone know they inspired you!
38. Let your spouse have the remote control for the entire night...or week. Yikes! I'm already getting the shakes just at the thought of it.
39. Go Elf yourself, your pet or a public figure.
40. Watch It’s A Wonderful Life (again). The economy notwithstanding, we have have a pretty wonderful life!   This season reminds us what is really important -- the relationships we share.  It is those relationships that really make it a wonderful life.

I hope in some small way this list has brought a smile and kicked up the holiday vibe a notch.

Peter Mclees

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksliving: Practicing an Attitude of Perpetual Gratitude

It's been said that life is a good news, bad news proposition. The good news is that life's challenges help us grow. The bad news is that there is more good news coming!

In his book Discovering the Laws of Life, the famed money manager and philanthropist John Tempelton coined the word “Thanksliving.” He recommended practicing an attitude of perpetual gratitude.

That's not hard when times are good. But in these challenging times an attitude of continual thankfulness can be a tall order. Yet Tempelton offers a radical solution. Don't just give thanks for your blessings. Be grateful for your problems, too.

This seems wildly counterintuitive at first blush. But facing our challenges makes us stronger, smarter, tougher, and more valuable as leaders, employees, parents, mates, ...and human beings.

"Solving problems is what were made for" it's what makes life worth living," remarked Templeton.

He goes on, "Adversity, when overcome strengthens us. So we are giving thanks not for the problem itself but for the strength and knowledge that comes from it. Giving thanks for the growth ahead of time will help you grow through--not just go through--your challenges."

What ever problems we're grappling with--personal, social, health, or financial--the best course is to face them with all the courage, patience, and equanimity you can muster.

And if possible be grateful.

On occasion, of course, our problems are simply bigger than we are. In an address in 1859, Abraham Lincoln recounted the following tale:

It is said that an Eastern Monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and in all situations. They presented him with the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

That's something worth keeping in mind.

Whatever your problems, few of them can withstand the onslaught of optimism, persistence, and a genuine spirit of gratitude.

As the poet Robert Frost reminds us, "The best way out is always through."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Peter Mclees

Winning by Giving

Succeeding Through Kindness

When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.

                                                                        – Wayne Dyer, author and speaker

When we're at work, we can spend a lot of energy trying to get help from those around us. However, how much time do we spend helping others in return?

Having a strong social support network at work raises engagement, productivity, and overall success. If we truly want to succeed, however, each of us can spend time "giving ourselves" to those in our network. Only then will we experience the true benefits that giving brings, and start to see the success we've dreamed of.

Benefits of Giving
Giving makes us happy. The happier we are, the more energy we have, the better we think, and the more friendships we develop. Giving not only feels good, but research shows that it lowers your chance of depression, strengthens your heart, lowers stress, and can literally add years to your life.

Professionally, giving also offers several benefits. One study found that fostering positive social support at work raises productivity. Another study found that those who give at work ("work altruists"), are far more engaged with what they do and are more often promoted, compared with colleagues who stay isolated while doing their job.

However, you probably don't need research to tell you that giving makes you feel good! Just think back to the last time you helped a colleague who was stuck with a problem, or took your assistant out to lunch. Giving boosts our energy in a way that nothing else can. We feel connected and engaged when we help others, because it reminds us of what it means to be human, at its best.

All this, in turn, comes back to us in ways we could never expect or predict. Giving creates a network of trust, goodwill, and good energy at work that can pay off many times over in the future.

Giving and kindness also have an important ripple effect, which is why one generous person can transform a team or an organization. The person you give to feels great about the help they received. This can create a desire in them to "pay back" that kindness to someone else. Much like ripples in a pond, one act of kindness can impact dozens, or even hundreds, of lives.

How to Give More
The good news about giving is that you don't need to invest huge chunks of your time to do it. Often, the smallest acts of kindness and consideration can have a big impact on those around us.

So, how can we give at work?

1. Just Listen
A great way of giving is simply to listen to others.
When you do this, listen without contributing your opinion, and without trying to "top their story." Use Active Listening skills, so that you can fully grasp what they're telling you, and respond with empathy and understanding.

2. Offer Specific Help
How many times have you heard a colleague say, "Let me know if you need any help!" but had the distinct feeling they didn't really mean it? Vague offers of help can come across as half-hearted or insincere. Offering help in a specific way shows that you mean it.

For instance, your colleagues may be complaining about their workload. So, offer specific help: volunteer to collect their lunch for them, so that they can continue working, or give them a hand with a task if your own workload allows. When you offer specific assistance, you let others know that you're truly willing to help.

3. Show Gratitude
If you're in a leadership position, how often do you give praise to your team? How often do you say "thank you" to your assistant for the good work he or she does every day?

Showing gratitude to those around us, whether above or below us in the hierarchy, is a simple but powerful way to give. So, find ways to say "thank you" to your team and colleagues. You might be surprised at the difference that this makes to your relationships!

4. Become a True Mentor
When you mentor others, you can share a lifetime's worth of knowledge and skill in order to help them succeed. This unselfish act not only benefits the professionals you work with; it can change your own life in many ways.

It probably goes without saying that your organization will benefit when strong mentoring relationships are formed within it. Start mentoring in the workplace now, and experience the satisfaction that comes with helping others to succeed.

5. Share Resources
If your team or department has ample resources or supplies, why not offer to share them with another team or department, particularly if it is not as well funded as yours?

This could include sharing resources such as physical supplies, but also knowledge, technology, and team member expertise as well. (This won't be viable in some situations. Use your own best judgment here, and make sure that you're doing your own job properly as well!)

6. Offer a Hand to New Employees
Can you remember what it was like on your very first day at the organization? You didn't know anyone, and you probably felt overwhelmed by all of your tasks and responsibilities.

When a new employee joins your organization or team, spend time with her during her first few weeks and help her have a successful induction. Offer to help her get used to her new role, and take her around to meet everyone that she'll be working with. Share your knowledge about the organization's culture and values.

This can make a challenging transition smoother and less stressful.

7. Practice "Random Acts of Kindness"
Random acts of kindness can transform both you and the person you help. When you are kind to someone anonymously, you give for the simple, ego-less pleasure of giving, and that's it. So, practice random acts of kindness when you're at work.

What can you do? Leave a cup of gourmet coffee on your colleague's desk when he or she is having a bad day. Send an anonymous "thank you" letter to your organization's cleaning staff. Bring some healthy snacks or homemade cookies to work, and leave them anonymously in the break room, with a note letting others know that they're for everyone.

There are endless ways that you can make a positive impact on someone else's day. Just use your imagination!

8. Find Your Purpose
Every job has a purpose. It's easy, especially when we're busy and stressed, to forget how our role helps others. But, no matter what we do or where we do it, ultimately our work should benefit someone else.

Take time to find your purpose at work. Once you dig down to find the ultimate meaning of what you do, you may be surprised by how much your work helps others.

Although it's important to give your time and energy to others, it's equally important not to go too far! If you spend too much time helping your coworkers, you may find that you don't have time to accomplish your own objectives. It's important to find the right balance between helping others, and focusing on your own goals and tasks.

Key Points
Giving our time and energy to others not only feels good, but it's been proven to make us happier, more productive, and more engaged with our team and organization.
Giving also offers positive physical benefits as well: it helps alleviate stress, helps lower our risk of illnesses like depression, and even helps us live longer!

You can give back to others by doing any or all of the following:

1.               Just listen to others.
2.               Offer specific help.
3.               Show gratitude.
4.               Become a mentor.
5.               Share resources.
6.               Offer a hand to new employees.
7.               Practice random acts of kindness.
8.               Find your purpose.

Make an effort to give regularly – you'll love the results.

All the success!

Peter Mclees

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to be a better leader in 9 minutes

Want to be a better leader? Not just one that develops employees, but one that gets results as well? Leadership and motivation specialist James Robbins has a new book out, Nine Minutes on Monday, which is based on the theory that it's the little things -- done consistently -- that bring the biggest results.

The purpose of a leader is to lead a team to great results. This is not an innate skill and many people have experienced the pain of having a bad manager. Additionally, many people get thrown into a manager role without proper training and understanding of what they should be doing. Robbins has 9 questions you should ask yourself each Monday morning. They are:

1. Whom will I show a genuine interest in this week?
2. Whom will I give feedback to?
3. Whom will I recognize?
4. How will I connect purpose to pay for someone?
5. Whom will I help grow this week?
6. Whom will I help feel autonomous?
7. What can I do to foster team unity?
8. Where can I inject some fun?
9. What do I need to model for my team members?

Note how none of these are connected to the typical worries of managers -- productivity, budgets, project timelines and any of the other million problems that land on a manager's plate. Instead, they focus on the key purpose of managers -- getting their team to perform at a higher level. All of those other things are necessary, but they go better when you have good people.

Of course implementing these things take a lot more than 9 minutes, but not so much more that doing them will take away from the rest of your work time. After all, how long does it take to give feedback to one of your employees? Or recognize good performance?

All 9 are critical however, number 6 intrigues me the most.
Asking yourself, "Whom will I help feel autonomous?" flies in the face of so many managers who think they must control every aspect of their employees' performance. If they are managing the department, they must have their hand in every little thing.

But, this level of micro-management tends to destroy morale and results in your good employees leaving and your bad employees doing just enough to not get fired. This isn't successful for anyone. Robbins points out that we crave autonomy and the ability to make choices. Having flexibility to do it your way typically results in more engaged and more productive employees.

In today's day of tight budgets and small headcounts, leaders need every trick in the book to get the most out of their employees. Perhaps Robbins' strategy of these 9 steps each Monday will allow you take your team to the top.

All the success,

Peter Mclees

Maintain high motivation with 10 inexpensive techniques

Enhancing the good will (and productivity) in your workplace is exceedingly important, but it doesn't have to be excessively expensive.
Trying to boost your company's bottom line? It's time invest in employee morale. Happy workers are 12 percent more productive, according to a study from Warwick Business School.
Conversely, unhappy employees can be detrimental to your business. Not only are they less productive and absent more often, but you will pay the price for months or years to come if they end up walking out the door. Turnover are estimated to be from 30 percent of annual salary for an entry level employee up to 400 percent of annual salary for a high-level employee.
Lucky for you, improving morale doesn't have to cost a fortune. None of the methods I've outlined below involves raises or bonuses.
1. Recognize individual employees.
Tell people when they are doing a fabulous job. This is simple, and it works so well. This was by far the most common response I heard when asking professionals how to boost employee morale. Praise your employees at staff meetings, or take the time to thank them in a handwritten note. Whatever the message, the most important thing is that employees know that you notice and appreciate their hard work.
Employee recognition need not stay within the office walls. One local hospital worked with its public relations pro—Shelly Gordon of G2 Communications—to create its "Hospital Heroes" program, which celebrated outstanding staff accomplishments. The press profiled the hospital's housekeeping staff, nurses and surgeons, boosting employee morale.
One Internet startup challenged employees to devise an innovative and cost-effective way to promote the company. Each month, the company chose and implemented the best idea. Management announced the winner at a staff meeting and gave him a prize. Elgin "Subwaysurfer" Bolling won one month and to this day describes it as "one of the highlights of my working with the company."

2. Show employees the results of their hard work.
A friend of mine once worked at a large nonprofit that raised money for other nonprofits. Most of his co-workers had very little, if any, direct interaction with the people and the communities they helped. Though they raised money for books and senior excursions, they never witnessed the joy of seeing children receive the new books, nor the delight of watching retirement home residents enjoy an afternoon at the museum.
To remedy this, the HR team organized field trips for my friend and his coworkers to see the results of their hard work. These were incredibly rewarding experiences and connected them to the communities. They made the employees feel more passionate about the work they were doing.
To replicate the field trip experience in your workplace, be sure to share with the entire staff the thank-you notes and positive reviews from customers. Better yet, team-builder Mike Jaffe of Jaffe Life Design asks clients to meet and personally thank the employees who service their account.
"By reminding employees about the meaning their work has by seeing its impact directly through the eyes of the people they are engaging with, it serves as a tremendous boost to morale, confidence, and satisfaction and adds an entirely different level of meaning to their work," Jaffe says.
3. Give employees responsibility.
All your employees can point out inefficiencies in your organization, but not all feel empowered to do so.
Paul Vragel of 4aBetterBusiness recommends listening to employees to learn what gets "in the way of the good job they want to do" and then involving them in the process to eliminate these barriers. Using this approach, he helped a midmarket manufacturing company implement almost 100 ideas that increased earnings by 30 percent within a few months.
When Terry Henley of Employers Resource Association needed to take over a production department of 100-plus employees on a six-month cleanup assignment, he involved the employees in improving their respective departments. Together, they reduced their error rate by 50 percent, increased their production by 25 percent, and eliminated huge backlogs that previously caused them to work overtime.

4. Treat employees like people.
"The fastest way to kill morale is to treat an employee like a resource similar to a stamp press or die cutter," says Curtis Stuehrenberg of Accelrys. Instead, extend small gestures like learning your employees' names and sending flowers when they are sick.
5. Make sure top management is available, listening and engaging.
In the early days of Hewlett-Packard, "the HP Way" included the practice of "management by walking around," says Bob Kalsey, whose father started working at HP in the 1950s. Founders Dave and Bill spent time on the shop floor talking with individual employees, asking questions, and soliciting ideas.
"People there felt their work and opinions were valued, and they took pride in that," says Kalsey. "We all want to feel genuinely a part of something larger than ourselves, and when we do, we are loyal and eager to go the extra mile. Unlike many C-level people who insulate themselves from low-level workers, Dave and Bill weren't absent from their employees' daily lives."
6. Offer training.
"One of the top reasons employees leave a company is the lack of development opportunities, so providing your employees with professional effective training is sure to boost morale," says Robert Bilotti of Novita.
This begins by partnering new employees with more-seasoned veterans, bringing in experts for training sessions, and paying for employees to attend local trade conferences.
"Your best people continue to demand professional development opportunities that help them grow, yet most companies take the short-sighted view of cutting those programs when financials are tight," says leadership coach Darcy Eikenberg of Red Cape Revolution. Be wary of taking away these benefits.
"Your stars will remember how they're being treated now and will walk to your competitor as soon as the economy turns," Eikenberg warns.

7. Give small perks with big personal impact.
In addition to providing training, businesses can reward staffers with perks that make a difference in their employees' lives.
One perk that many cherish—and which costs employers nothing—is the luxury of working from home once a week. The time they save by not commuting gives them the chance to take a breather between their work and family responsibilities. Having flexible hours can make a world of difference to working parents.
New Belgium Brewing Co. in Colorado rewards each employee with a new bicycle after a year of employment, and it encourages employees to ride by providing on-site showers and bicycle maintenance supplies. Of its 320 employees, more than half the staff rides to work in the summer.
When it comes to rewarding a job well done, many executives revert to giving their employees small cash bonuses. Instead, Ruben Estrada of Estrada Strategies recommends treating employees to an experience.
"Instead of giving your production supervisor a $50 bonus, offer to buy dinner for him and his wife at a local fine restaurant," Estrada says. "When you give an employee money, his attitude is grateful, but the feeling is, 'I earned it,' and thus the impact is short-lived. When you give an employee an experience, you're giving them something they would call their mother to brag about."
8. Be transparent, and keep staff in the loop.
When employees don't know what is going on in the company, productivity can give way to redundant or otherwise unnecessary efforts on the part of the staff. Worse yet, when employees are given only part of the story, they are left to fill in the blanks with gossip, rumors and worry.
This happened to the employees of a client of executive coach Darcy Eikenberg. The company was successful in a growing industry, but employees were still concerned with layoffs. The executive wasn't looking at the situation from the staff's viewpoint. The staff didn't know as much as she did. She then started explaining how and why the industry was growing, and why they were making cuts for the benefit of the company.

9. Make the workplace fun.
"No one wants to leave a place where they are having fun," says Abby Kohut, a recruiter at Staffing Symphony. "For little to no cost, employers can implement programs that make their employees smile." Her suggestions include potluck cooking contests, baby picture contests and department shows.
Jillian Zavitz at TalktoCanada, a company that offers English lessons over the Internet, has tried numerous approaches to boost the morale of her teachers. She found that bonuses and weekly prizes don't work. Faced with the additional challenge of having a virtual workforce, Jillian tried a new approach and implemented a game called "Amazing Race Canada" for her teachers and students.
"So far people are pumped at the opportunity to do different things—and compete against each other," Zavitz says.
10. Ask employees what motivates them.
Though the list above will certainly help bolster the morale of many employees, one of the most important things is to ask your employees what motivates them. Robert Dolezal, CEO at Consultiq & D&A Consulting, recommends sitting down with each employee and having a conversation about what they value and how they measure success.
"The answers they give will in turn suggest non-compensation rewards that will boost morale—and the conversations themselves will make them feel more motivated, appreciated and participatory, leading to morale boosts just by asking," Dolezal says.
Raj Khera , co-founder & CEO of MailerMailer, finds that the outcome of these sessions "is often a list of ideas that you hadn't thought of. If you implement them, the employees will feel even more appreciated and will typically help you get the ideas launched."
Just be genuine
Whichever methods you implement, remember to do so out of genuine interest and concern for your employees. Employees will recognize forced office socials and cheap thoughtless gifts as such, and this can cause more damage than the good will you sought.

All the success!
Peter McLees