By: Carmine Gallo
Former American Idol host Simon Cowell surprised me the other day. He appeared with Piers Morgan on CNN to promote his new television show—The X-Factor—as well as talk about his decision to leave Idol, fame, money (having it, losing it, and regaining it), and other topics you’d expect to hear. Then came this exchange after Cowell talked about losing his father about twelve years ago, the “worst day” of Cowell’s life.
Morgan: What’s the best advice you got from your father?
Cowell: “He said to me—because he was successful, my dad, when he ran his company—he said, ‘everybody around you has an invisible sign on their head which says ‘make me feel important.’ What I understood from that is what you’ve got to recognize that everyone around you wants to be recognized, wants to be appreciated.”
And with that Simon Cowell just offered today’s managers the single best piece of advice they can get if they hope to attract, engage, and retain their top performers—a technique that is so easy (and free) to implement, I’m constantly shocked at how few managers use it on a daily basis: make your people feel important, recognized and appreciated.
“Just having a job isn’t enough.” The monthly job numbers are getting better— slightly. Confidence is rising—slightly. But eventually the turnaround will be in full force and employees will have far more options than they have today. We are already seeing signs that people are no longer satisfied with “just having a job.” One MetLife survey found that one in three currently employed professionals hope to find another job in the next twelve months. Morale is at an all-time low. As a leader what are you doing about it? Start by taking Cowell’s advice. Many employee surveys conclude that employees want more praise, recognition and appreciation. It’s a free incentive for Pete’s sake and your employees are clamoring for it!
My wife’s friend is the top salesperson for her company, but she’s seriously looking for another position. Why? It’s not due to poor compensation. She’s happy with what she makes. It’s not for lack of “perks” because she has earned two week-long trips to exotic locales for her and her husband this year alone. It’s not because of her work environment—she gets to work from home most of the week. And it’s not because of her travel schedule since she rarely travels out of the area for business. She says she’s looking because her boss has never praised her publicly nor shown any verbal appreciation for her achievements. Imagine that. This company is about to lose its best salesperson in a very challenging economic environment because its managers haven’t figured out that praise is the best incentive they could offer.
Simon Cowell may come off as abrasive and caustic on-air, but behind the scenes he’s a top-notch manager thanks to the lesson he learned from his father. Maybe we should all heed the lesson.