By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me at home, starting my week with my typical Monday W.I.G. calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Team Meeting and filmed in our Los Altos, California studio for various company awards events and for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. On Thursday, I attended the launch event (via Zoom) for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox Cities Realty and I was thrilled to help welcome them to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network.
All in all, it was a week of celebration and acknowledgement, and it’s the latter topic I want to talk about for our blog post this week. (And yes, our blog post. Thoughts on Leadership is as much yours as it is mine.)
For leaders, it’s important to acknowledge team accomplishments. Proper acknowledgement is the method of support that will show your team members their work is seen and heard as a significant contribution toward the achievement of collective company goals. Gallup polls show employee recognition is the key factor influencing not only employee engagement but also overall organizational performance.
Translation: To create—and retain—extraordinary performers, you have to acknowledge just how extraordinary they are!
Consider Zappos, for example, which was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for a deal worth about $1.2 billion. Zappos has a peer-to-peer acknowledgement program where employees earn rewards via recommendations from other members of the team. The rewards differ by location because each office has its own unique perks. At the Las Vegas office, covered parking is an issue, and an employee can nominate a colleague for a special, covered parking spot as a “reward.” The takeaway? Acknowledgement comes in all forms, but it shouldn’t just be a plaque or a ribbon. Think about ways you can acknowledge employees that will be meaningful to them.
GE, famously once run by one of my favorite business mentors, Jack Welch, is also well-known for an amazing recognition program. (Side note: Welch joined GE in 1960 where he actually worked as a junior chemical engineer at my place of birth, Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the heart of the Berkshires, so I feel a particular kinship to him and his leadership philosophies.) When the company restructured between 2010 and 2014, employee acknowledgement took center stage as a way to bridge the gap between organizational change and sustainable growth. During weekly meetings between employees and managers, a wall-mounted dashboard displayed an employee’s performance and achievements. As I like to say, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” The takeaway? A simple, visual, personal example of success and approval can go a long way. Like the videos I filmed for award presentations, I make it a point to speak each of the award winners’ names and discuss directly what they did to achieve an award.
In 2020 at Apple, CEO Tim Cook gave every employee the entire week of Thanksgiving off. (The memo also instructed managers in other countries to find an appropriate holiday and give employees a week off then.) In addition, he added three paid vacation days to every employee’s calendar and told retail teams that had to work over Thanksgiving—one of the busiest shopping times of the year—they’d get a week off at an alternate date. The takeaway? Acknowledgment should surprise and delight all team members in some way. Every member of your team should feel proud, honored and above all, recognized. Because if they’re on your team, it means they’re dedicated to personal and professional growth, continual learning, focus, commitment, dedication and all the important facets you’ve instilled in them as any great leader should.
So, what’s the message? In real estate, late winter and early spring tends to be “awards season.” And this awards season, make your recognition personal. Make it visible. Make it universal. Make it creative and make sure it motivates your employees to keep doing what they’re doing, so they feel supported to achieve even more.