It was many years ago, a night like so many others.
I was on stage playing a concert with a local symphony orchestra being led by a guest conductor.
I was dressed in my usual orchestra concert attire, a black tuxedo, complete with black cummerbund and bow tie (à la James Bond, I like to think). The strange thing about this time was that I was seated behind a drum set.
I say strange because when you study to be a drummer, you don’t necessarily see yourself wearing a tuxedo while you play. You also don’t imagine yourself playing behind a 60-piece orchestra at the back of a large concert hall filled with people.
I was playing the same drum set that I had played many times while dressed in jeans and t-shirt, the same set that I would “rock out on” in jam sessions with friends.
But this night was different. This night I was playing in an orchestral pops concert and it was the first time I was hired not as a percussionist but as the “drummer” for such a thing.
I had done my practicing, been to rehearsals, but I was nervous. There’s just something different about show time. On top of that, it was a big program. But I have to tell you that I don’t remember one single tune I played that night.
I remember one moment only, and how it felt. The moment I remember was near the end of the night, in the last tune. It was a fast up-tempo number and I was busily keeping time when the conductor looked up from his score and looked me straight in the eye. Then with a broad smile, he raised his hand and gave me a big thumbs-up.
I am going to guess that that particular moment was about 20 years ago now. Yet I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember how great it felt, how happy I was.
I’m not sure if the conductor meant to make me feel as good as he did, but in that one moment, he validated my hard work, my years of practice, my musicianship and how I played that night.
And the thing is, he didn’t have to do it. There’s no rule about that. I have played many concerts where it seems the conductors don’t even know you’re there. So for one to make an effort, that really stood out for me, and his timing was right on.
That was a great moment! That’s the thing about special moments. They can have a profound impact on people.
Most of what we do goes unnoticed.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a lots of moments at work.
But you don’t have to get up on stage to have those special kinds of moments. Think of birthdays, anniversaries, maybe a big sports win if you were so lucky. Maybe you won a big contract, got a promotion or a raise; maybe you won a job you really wanted.
Of course, there’s the big life stuff, like meeting your spouse for the first time, getting married, having kids, buying a house.
These are moments that we look back on with fondness. But they’re more than that. They’re moments that make life interesting and fun. They’re moments that we feel good about as we look back on them.
Of course, we remember the not-so-good moments too, but let’s focus on the good stuff for now.
When you think of those good moments, how do they make you feel? Great, right? Who doesn’t want a life filled with wonderful moments?
Let’s turn this around for a moment: as that conductor did who made my day, what if it was you who actually made the moments for others, maybe the people who work for you or the people who work with you?
What kind of effect do you think that would have?
Think about it. Many people have days, weeks or even months of work that seem to be a blur of busy combined with a splash of insanity. Days are filled with meetings, to-do lists and looming deadlines that seem to take away our time to breathe.
And then there’s the routine. Days seem to run into the next with no discernable break. There nothing like routine to stifle our creative energies. For tips on getting out of your routine, read this popular post.
What if you created some moments?
You already recognize your employees, you say. Well, it might not be enough.
In the book, Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Health (a wonderful and fascinating read - btw), they cite some work done by Carolyn Wiley of Roosevelt University, wherein she looked at 4 studies on employee engagement done over a period of 40+ years.
One thing stood out as the top motivator – “getting full appreciation of work done.”
Another interesting finding is that while more than 80 per cent of supervisors claim they express appreciation to those under them, just 20 per cent of employees say that their supervisor’s express appreciation once in a while.
Think about yourself. How often does someone come along and say, “Hey, (your name here), great job on the ______!”
Admit it, wouldn’t it be great if it happened a little more?
Let’s face it! We’re pretty good at taking each other for granted.
You just need to be brave.
Perhaps like many of you, I spend a lot of time in hockey rinks as a hockey parent.
I have noticed that I get to do a lot of sitting around while I’m there. I can watch the game or practice from the stands. I can read a book or do work (I built most of my website at my daughter’s hockey practices), or I can simply drop off and run errands, while other people engage, motivate, nurture, and just plain give a damn about my kids.
I have also noticed the conversations of those few who weren’t happy when these coach volunteers aren’t up to the level they think their child needs to become the next “great one”.
It’s a great example of how our default focus is on the negative. We see what our kid is not able to do, what the coaches aren’t getting them to do. We see what’s wrong or could be better.
The thing is, people who volunteer to do things like coach sports teams and the like get their motivation from helping. Sure, they do it on behalf of their own kids too, but I know they get satisfaction from helping others. They aren’t looking for compliments.
But the other day I ran into the convener for our local hockey league, a fellow I don’t know except for the emails I receive from him. He organizes the league, the games, the players, deals with parents and generally keeps things moving smoothly. He does this for FREE.
I went up to him and said, “Hi, I just want to thank you for all that you’re doing for the league. My son has a great time here and we really enjoy being part of this organization”.
He looked at me in shock and said, “Wow, I really appreciate that.”
It cost me nothing. But you know what? Despite me being a bit shy to go tell him, I am so glad I did. It made me feel good. It turned out to be a special moment for me too!
Making moments always takes effort
Here’s the thing you really need to know. Making a moment for someone (and it doesn’t matter who it is) takes effort, even if it’s just to say “thank you”.
It has to progress from that thought in your head all the way to action.
Sometimes it involves us being humble. It might involve us admitting to ourselves that we couldn’t have done something without that other person.
It might involve us showing one of our weaknesses and letting someone know about something we’re not great at.
But the benefits are huge.
Again, I know folks like the hockey convener aren’t there for the praise, but how do you think he would feel if more people came up and told him “thanks”?
How you think he’d feel if more people came up to him and told him that he’s helping create wonderful memories for their children?
Do you think he’d be likely to volunteer again? You bet he would.
How would he remember his days doing this in 10 years? With fondness, I’ll bet.
So now, think about the people you work with or the people who work for you.
What power do you think a simple “thank you” might have on them? What if you did more?
And I am not suggesting that you go around thanking people as a form of manipulation. But when business article after business article shows that most people leave a workplace because they feel under-appreciated, it’s worth considering what you can do to prevent losing someone you want to keep around.
If you get a chance to read The Power of Moments (can’t recommend it enough), you’ll see that there isn’t one type of appreciation that can be used in every situation. That’s because we are all unique, and appreciation, real appreciation, is personal.
Know this, you have to get to know someone in order to create relevant moments of appreciation for them.
Here are a few things to consider if you want to start making moments for people.
1) I know this sounds obvious but saying “Thank You” is an easy (yet effective) thing to do when it comes to showing our appreciation to people. As I said before, research shows that people are not hearing it enough. Don’t underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you card with a few carefully chosen words. I sent two last week, and both parties were blown away.
2) If you want to create a special moment beyond a “thank you”, then you have to get to know someone a bit more. It might mean learning what type of coffee or tea is their favourite. What hobbies do they have? What do they like to eat? Where do they shop?
Think of how well you know your close relatives, the ones for whom you have no trouble buying a gift.
3) Create ceremonies and acknowledge milestones.
We’re used to the birthday cakes at the office, the retirement parties or going out for a few drinks to celebrate after a concert (ok – maybe that’s just me and my group). But clever companies (and employers) are figuring out how to motivate by acknowledging things that were un-noticed before. Think of my watch that sets off virtual fireworks when I hit my 10,000 steps. Don’t I look for my 10,000 steps every day? You bet I do.
What could you do for people that is like that?
Moments can be a big deal too!
I tend to get hired by companies that believe in making moments. I’m usually the “get them out of their comfort zone”, “get them thinking differently”, speaker.
One of my clients hires me every couple years to help recognize a team of people who are being promoted to leadership roles within the organization.
They take this group of 40 new leaders and send them to a 3-day retreat off-site. They have classroom time with a wonderful and knowledgeable leadership expert (Dr. John O. Burdett). His work is amazing and has them do a deep dive in what it takes to be a leader.
They also have some meals together, perhaps a few drinks, and do lots of talking. Then, near the end of their time there, they spend an afternoon with me doing some rather out-of-the-box thinking, the kind that involves making moments.
I have them take part in my Think- Perform-Remember program. Using drums and percussion instruments, I have them create. I have them write. I have them perform.
When the retreat is over, these teams have come through a process that gives them new skills, a team name, a defined personality for their team, and a vision of what they are going to do in the coming year. The retreat becomes a rite of passage. It is a transformational moment they can look back on and refer to as the year goes by.
It is something their employers feel is important and, from what I hear, this makes a wonderful difference when they get back to work.
So whether you create moments for your team or for just one person, I think it all starts here.
Ok, this will sound a little simplistic and perhaps Pollyanna-ish, but here goes…
It’s not easy to always be thinking about giving people moments. But I have found that taking the time to appreciate what I have each day has helped me.
I’m sure you’ve heard of some folks practicing “daily gratitude”. It does wonders for making your problems seem smaller. But what it often does is show me a chain of people who have contributed to the good life I am living, and that isn’t a bad thing.
What moments will you create for others?