A dime

What’s a dime worth to you? Let me explain how a simple dime became the most valuable thing I had this past week-end:

This past week-end Rosie (my wife) and I volunteered our time cooking for a Scouting camp. More accurately we planned, shopped and led a wonderful team to ensure everyone in camp was well fed. There were 140 people in camp, which had grown unexpectedly from the original number of 80.

Thankfully at the last minute the event moved to a different camp up the road. The kitchen at the original camp was significantly smaller and would have made the logistics of cooking for so many challenging to say the least. Despite this new location there were challenges over the week-end such as a lack of running water in the kitchen, communication gaps with the event organizers, one of our volunteer cooks having to back out due to being sick, etc. However …. the show must go on!

For Saturday dinner we put together a buffet and had all 140 people file past the food getting what they wanted. They had BBQ chicken breasts, sausage, potatoes, rice, vegetables, and much more to dimechoose from. After dinner they had cake to enjoy from my favourite cake maker here in town.

By the time we were serving dinner Rosie and I had been our feet for about 13 hours (we got up at 4 am to start breakfast preparations). As one of the Cubs approached the buffet he looked me in the eye, reached out and handed me this dime saying “a little something for the cooks for making such great food.” It was done in such a heart-felt genuine way I couldn’t help but be touched. This simple and genuine gesture has reminded me of how easy it is to go through life not appreciating those around you. Sure we all say “thanks” but do we really mean it?

genuine thanks

What I have noticed is how easy it is to move through life on auto-pilot. This includes how we thank people as we do it more out of obligation than appreciation. “Mom and Dad taught me to always be polite … so … thanks“. Does this really show the other person we appreciate the thing they’ve done for us? Does this inspire or give the other person confidence their efforts are worth while?

Recently I have been conscious about changing this behaviour in myself. When someone does something for me I look them in the eye and tell them how much I appreciate what they did. It might be someone for which I expected something such as a flight attendant, a cleaning person at a hotel, or a person serving my table at a restaurant. It is of course also people who do something I wasn’t expecting like holding a door open for me, picking up something I dropped or giving me a dime in appreciation for my efforts.

Regardless of the context I’ve noticed something very special when I take a moment to pause and say “thanks!”. I’ve noticed the other person lights up and seems to feel noticed. It’s as if it sparks something valuable inside them. Selfishly I’ve noticed it also changes something in me as I am more appreciative and connected to the community around me. After all, life would be pretty boring if not for those around me!

Leading for ChangeTM

When was the last time you thanked someone at work for something they did? I’m talking about really taking the time to appreciate them? In my work I get teams doing retrospectives as a structured way of looking at our work together so we can improve. Essentially it’s about learning how to learn as a team. My favourite approaches have a place to express our appreciations for each other. In almost every case I find this notion of appreciating each other to be foreign to most corporate cultures.

At first it feels awkward for people to express their appreciations for each other. This simple action of thanking each other brings people closer together as a team. The reason for me is simple; In today’s corporate cultures we spend a lot of time focusing on our little piece of work and getting ahead. This is the result of corporate accountabilities in which we’re held to a goal or standard from the top-down in the organization. These accountabilities create silos rather than teams.

Great results require a team to share in the responsibility of the outcomes. What I’ve observed is the simple act of a heart-felt “thanks” between team members goes along way to bringing the team closer together.”Thanks” helps the recipient feel appreciated for having given of themselves in some way. “Thanks” helps the recipient to want to give again. “Thanks” helps both people feel as if it’s OK to bring their whole self to the team more often.

I challenge YOU to …

… amp-up how you appreciate others. Mix it up and do whatever feels natural and authentic to you. However, rather than just drop a “thanks” as you’re leaving or in passing try this:

  • Pause for a moment and look them right in the eye
  • Smile!
  • Say your thanks in whatever form feels natural (eg. “thanks for looking after us at dinner tonight”, or “thanks for trying”, or “I appreciate that you went the extra mile for me and …” you get the idea)
  • Smile!
  • Pause again before turning to leave

Imagine the impact you could have on someone with this simple and free gesture. Imagine what the world would be like if we motivated each other in this simple way day after day. Rather than moving through the world trying to survive, it’s my belief people will move through the world acting more like community … even if we’re strangers at the start.

Who are you going to thank today?


Credit & reference: I learned about accountability & responsibility from my friend Christopher Avery. If you’d like to learn more contact me or you can find Christopher at http://www.christopheravery.com


Building Great Teams

Building Great Teams

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