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January 8, 2009 7:22 AM CST

Slap Their Backs


My first year in high school, I went out for the water polo team. Our coach was also the head baseball coach who never played water polo and couldn't swim. As the season progressed, we learned the basics and began to gel as a team. I liked our coach and discovered his baseball teams consistently went to the league championships, plus he held the league record for most coaching wins. Many of his players earned college scholarships, and several were playing in Major League Baseball.

As our league water polo games approached, the intensity increased. Our baseball coach was beginning to get the best from everyone on our young team. We were beating teams ranked much higher, and we rose from fifth to second in the league standings. Only one team stood in the way of our winning the league championships. That final game was awesome. We beat the best and went on to celebrate the victory.

Coaching Counts

As I look back, I realize what made us successful. We didn't have raw talent or experience, or the best plays or techniques. Our coach made the difference. Every day, he approached each player, slapped his back and complimented him. He made us want to get better, improve and win. He always talked about our possibilities, never our failures or mistakes. He never yelled or talked down to us. He constantly reminded us that we could be the best only when we decided to be the best.

As I manage my staff and leadership team, my natural tendency is to try to fix their problems. It is easy to find fault and criticize. Have you ever wished your people were as accountable, responsible and hard working as you? Do you often hope your people will change and improve?

People Want To Do More

Just as our sophomore coach improved every player, you can change the people in your company. Their output is the result of your input. All it takes is a regular slap on the back. Ninety-two percent of people who leave companies say they never received any praise or compliments from their bosses. Ninety-seven percent say they would do more if they were recognized and appreciated regularly.

Think about your project or company. You can't do it alone. You need staff, suppliers, subcontractors, managers, foremen and workers to get the job done. Most everyone wants to do a good job. And, the simplest way to get what you want is to give them the recognition they deserve.

A System That Works

My recognition system is simple: I try to recognize everyone who works for me at least once a week. I use a checklist to assure I don't forget anyone. One-on-one, face-to-face appreciative comments work best, such as, "Thank you for ..." or "I appreciate your doing ..."

When I'm out of town, or when it's impossible to see everyone, I make time to write short appreciative notes. I often see these notes proudly posted on their bulletin boards for weeks. It is amazing how a kind word goes such a long way. I also leave short voice mail messages telling them how much I appreciate their work. Any praise or recognition given now is better than waiting for the "perfect" time to do it.

With our customers, architects, suppliers and subcontractors, I try to send handwritten thank you notes regularly. This keeps them excited about being on our team. This also motivates them to go the extra mile when we really need them.

A Winning Coach

Who is on your praise and recognition list? Who should you thank today? How often do you give praises and words of appreciation? Remember my coach who took a bunch of regular guys and turned them into winners? He didn't know how to do the work or play the game. But, he did know how to turn people into winners. Go slap someone on the back, today.

About the Author

George Hedley is a best-selling author, professional speaker, and business coach. He helps entrepreneurs and business owners build profitable companies. Email to request a free copy of Everything Contractors Know About Making A Profit! or signup for his e-newsletter. To hire George to speak, attend his Profit-Builder Circle academy or find out how he can help your company grow, call 800-851-8553, or visit


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