Leadership on Point

It’s Not Just The Money: The Motivating Power of Words

July 26, 2011 Anne Etra - Guest Author

Thank you + employee retention + employee satisfaction

I recently ghostwrote an e-book for an entrepreneur with a lucrative fitness club member retention system.    His own 14,000-square-foot fitness facility boasts a whopping 84% customer retention rate.  “Success through Involvement” is a key philosophy of his system, resulting in stellar staff effectiveness and happy members achieving their fitness goals.

It might surprise you that employee retention research consistently rates ‘Recognition’ the #1 motivator for staying with a company.  (‘Opportunities for Further Learning and Advancement’ is #2, with ‘Salary’ a lagging #3.)

When I was a rookie publicity assistant in the Publishing business, my first high-profile task was to organize material for the sales conference to support the book trade representatives selling our children’s reference and fiction.  I set about creating folders with sales sheets, jackets, pages, ‘USPs’ and why we were better than the competition.

To my surprise, when the ‘field sales reports’ circulated three months later the reps all mentioned  the ‘wonderful sales folders’ I’d created, and how they’d helped them do their jobs.  I was pleased to see this, but it was nothing compared to the nondescript white envelope I received soon after in the internal company mail.

The Managing Director of the much larger Academic Division who I had never personally met sent me (me!) a handwritten note, telling me to get a copy of the reps reports and congratulating me on a job well done.  What a thrill.  This creative executive – in a firm with 1000 people on site – bothered to send me a note when I didn’t even work for him. His simple act had a huge effect: it thrust me upward, showed me leadership and taught me word power.

In our current era of Social Media Facebook Twitter stimulus overload where people electronically expose everything they like and all that they hate and what they did an hour ago, where words are currency a dime a dozen here today gone in a nanosecond, how does a leader communicate a personal well done message to an employee?

Sure, you can send an email.  But we all know it could never get there.  Your staff member may accidentally delete it, and won’t ask you to resend it.  It’s gone – along with today’s Fandango ad, Groupon offer, and other unwanted junk.

I still have that congratulatory note from all those years ago.  Old-fashioned, you say?   Bring it back, I say.  A few well-chosen words said in person or in a private note from a company head, manager or team leader sends a powerful jolt of Recognition Appreciation Motivation Excitement to achieve the next goal in a modern world where your last email message is gone forever.



Written by Anne Etra, President of ETRAwords.com, fitness professional and consultant.  She can be reached at anne@etrawords.com.