I recently wrote about a CEO I advise who was having trouble reaching out to others to ask for things, because he felt like he was always taking and never giving. That post was about the problem and some solutions to it; this post is more generally about how to give back.
The general premise is this: as the CEO, you want to set aside a specific hour sometime during the week to show appreciation for others. I’m certainly not the most new age guy, so I don’t mean that in the fuzzy, meditative way. I’m talking about actually doing things for other people and giving them the rewards that they find rewarding.
This hour should be sometime in the evening or morning, so that you aren’t being bothered by incoming email, etc. And it should be relatively focused on people who have either done something directly for you that week or someone who has done something for you in the long term that you haven’t yet recognized.
And this hour should have a budget. It depends on how well-funded your startup is, but $100 a week isn’t unreasonable; I guarantee that if done well, this will net your business more than $5K a year.
The seemingly easy part (the appreciation) isn’t as simple as it appears, in part because you want to tailor your rewards to the people themselves. Some people like public recognition for being awesome on Twitter, others would prefer an endorsement on LinkedIn, others want to get some Jelly Belly’s in the mail (this is clearly my dream).
Think about past people you’ve worked with, family and friends who have been supportive, anyone who has ever done you a favor (and if you’re doing your job properly, you should have plenty of those). Think about everything you know about them and what would make them feel happy, honored, and remembered. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive, and you can probably get through at least 6 in an hour.
I’ll close with one of my favorites: cowboy boots and Dave Clarke. Dave is a hell of a guy; he was our first hire at Churnless, where we literally just sent him an @Churnless.com email address and said that he worked for us now. He came onboard without having a clue what we were up to and who could possibly ask for more than that? He does great work at the practice he founded (AuthenticMatters) and remains one of my favorite people in the world.
Now Dave lives in Philly, so he used to come up to the Churnless office every two weeks or so to work. Slept on the couch, put in two good days, went home. So one night, while he was out to a meeting, I stuck a pair of cowboy boots with a note expressing our gratitude for his badassery on the couch before I left.
It isn’t just leaving the gift that matters. I wear cowboy boots every day, and Dave is a guy with a rustic edge (he’s from Virginia, listens to a lot of Drive By Truckers, and accepted a hatchet from me for his wedding present); giving him cowboy boots was a way of communicating how we felt.
And he felt good about them. Still wears them when I see him. And moreover, the next time I asked people in the office if they needed supplies, our lead engineer said “No supplies, but I want cowboy boots.” Which he got, when he completed his first major product launch with us.
There is no substitute for appreciating people. Set aside the time and budget and get it done.