Everyone arrives with a bag filled with those small little Valentine’s Cards, signed, sealed with names on the outside of the envelope. Secretly, or not so secretly, this is a day many have long been awaiting.
Will I get a card from Bobby Or Andrew? (or Betty or Ashleigh?)? And if I do (or if the “rules” state that everyone gives everyone a card) will it say something special, something unique?
In other words, will the card really be just for me, and did they think about me as they signed it? Even better, did they say something specific?
The teacher lines up small boxes, possibly personalized and decorated by each person during a recent art project. The boxes sit silently waiting; waiting to be filled with the cards for which they were designed.
At the designated time, students are asked to distribute their cards in the appropriate boxes, and now the seemingly sadistic wait for the afternoon party is nearly unbearable. The boxes attract us like the large horseshoe magnet used in science class is drawn to your mostly-metal desk.
You try to pay attention to the teacher and the lessons, but your mind and eyes keep riveting on our boxes and the treasures inside.
Finally, the afternoon party comes and everyone gets some red fruit punch, a handful of that (awesome) heart shaped candy with the very cool words, and most importantly, get to open their box of cards!
Most will open their cards quickly, and try to show little extra emotion at any individual card. Yet, on the bus, they will read them again, and at home, safely in the privacy of their room, those cards will be read again, studied carefully for hidden clues.
Does this mean he likes me?
Did she sign all of the cards in red and draw a heart?
We are all far removed from the Valentine’s Days and traditions of our youth, yet there are lessons in the story.
Our employees, secretly or less so, want our attention and want to know we care. Just as the opinions of Ashleigh or Andrew were so important to us on that Valentine’s Day in our past, so is your opinion important to your team today. The reason or object of that opinion might be different, but the emotional need isn’t.
Read the story again. On the surface at work, people might not seem to care if the positive feedback is generic or if you treat everyone equally. But when hey get to their office, or home, they are looking for clues that you care, signs that you notice them, value them, care about them, and think about them.
This applies to performance reviews – are you doing them with a cut-and-paste, cookie cutter approach or are you really focusing on the individual? Daily interactions, and much more.
The authentic, specific, caring comment that you make, may be replayed, reviewed, and revered by that employee far longer than the weathered Valentines in a box in the attic. That comment might be celebrated and shared with a spouse or close friend.
On Valentine’s Day, don’t just think about your romantic love, think about how you can share your appreciation, respect, and caring with your team. It won’t require flowers or candy, it will only require your time, energy, and focus.
Let people know you care. Take time to share of yourself. Leave your canned comments at home and bring yourself – your passion and your attention – to work. These things won’t give you the picture-perfect TV commercial Valentine’s Day, but it will make a bigger difference for your team than you will ever know.
Do it and you will see.
Then remember that it shouldn’t just be Valentine’s Day, but every day.