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Encouragement, wisdom don’t cost a penny but garner high rewards

Posted: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The night before our son was married we hosted a rehearsal dinner. Friends and family from all over the county were present, joining us in celebration and happiness.

At one point during the “comments” section of the evening, our son’s soon to be father-in-law stood up and said with a direct voice just four short words: “I believe in you!”

That was a sincere and very public display of appreciation, faith and support. My wife and I were, of course, delighted and very pleased to hear the words; it validated our parenting efforts.

A few months later I watched a highly entertaining video of Bob Farrell, cofounder of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours, talk about running a service business in “The Leadership Pickles.”

According to Farrell, the three things that every leader should do are spread enthusiasm, inspire confidence and demonstrate integrity.

How does a leader spread enthusiasm? The first is to create a sense of urgency. The second is to lend employees energy until they create their own. The third is make things fun.

Inspiring confidence happens when the leader takes the fear out of the future, when employees are kept informed, employee input is sought, and people are convinced to try new things.

Demonstrating integrity is critical because every employee is always watching. This takes place even when it appears that there is nothing worth watching. Farrell stated that “what your employees see is what the leader will get” so always being a good example is essential. He encourages leaders to always do the right thing, regardless of the cost.

In the video, Farrell tells the story of how he identified a young man, a dishwasher, who he believed belonged out front with the customers. The employee, who was extremely self-conscious because he had lost an eye as a child, was reluctant to take a job where he would be in the spotlight. The young man did not want the attention to his physical issue and he did not want to make any of the guests uncomfortable.

Bob felt differently, believing that there was something inside of the dishwasher that would improve the customer experience at the restaurant and transform and unleash the potential of the young man.

Farrell offered the young man a new position, with a pay increase, under the terms that if things didn’t work out, the employee could return to his old job washing dishes, keeping the raise. The young man accepted, did a great job out front with the guests and earned several promotions over the next few years.

As he finished the story, Farrell emphasized that some people never have been encouraged in their entire lives.

Everyone reading this remembers at least one individual who made a difference in his life with motivation, inspiration, advice or serving as a sounding board at a critical decision point.

The real reward in business — and life — is when you look back at your life and remember those individuals who took the time to help you when you needed it; even perhaps when you weren’t looking for it.

Being encouraging and providing your wisdom doesn’t cost a penny. And when you hear those words “I believe in you!” or when you hear a story like Farrell tells in his video, the responsibility of the leader to provide encouragement becomes all that more important.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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