According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), people usually gain workplace status with behaviors that focus on the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing. However, studies show that when people finally reach “power positions” they are three times as likely as other employees to interrupt co-workers, raise their voices, and say inappropriate things.
Senior executives at Facebook, Campbell Soup, and Pixar collectively suggest these demotivating “power position” behaviors should be replaced by individuals modeling contagious acts of appreciation in the form of empathy, gratitude, and generosity. Arturo Bejar, Facebook’s director of engineering, suggests taking a moment to think about the person you will be with and what is happening in his or her life or actively listening with your body and eyes. Another empathy practice is when someone comes to you with a problem, communicate concern with phrases such as “I’m sorry” or “That’s really tough,” avoiding judging or feeling obligated to give advice.
To model gratitude, HBR suggests making thoughtful thank-yous of how you communicate with others or publicly acknowledge the value that each person contributes to your team. Former Campbell Soup Company CEO, Douglass Conant, would spend nearly an hour every day scanning emails or company intranet for news of employees who were making a difference, and then he would typically follow-up with a handwritten note. Some other ideas are taking co-workers out to nice lunches; hosting employee-of-the-month celebrations; or having the department heads wash employee cars or BBQ burgers in the parking lot.
Generosity was the third area noted in the HBR article and included behavior examples such as delegating important high-profile responsibilities, giving praise generously, and sharing the recognition limelight with the entire team. Other ideas noted were to seek opportunities to spend a little one-on-one time with the people you lead and give praise generously and authentically.
The first step in cultivating these mindful and purposeful practices of empathy, gratitude, and generosity is to build your capacity for self-awareness as a chamber or association exec. For example, if you were to personally evaluate how you practice empathy, gratitude, and generosity on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being high, how would you feel you are doing? To expand this activity to your department or your Board of Directors, how would they rate the organization on the practices of empathy, gratitude, and generosity with a similar scale? Remember, the more powerful result is not the actual numerical rating, but the discussion or processing around reflecting on these three behaviors individually or as a group.
When a contagious culture of appreciation is an intentional priority the potential for abusive or demotivating behaviors is diminished in our volunteer or work environments. What contagious culture are you intentionally or unintentionally building in your own association or chamber?