It seems that lately, I’ve been experiencing moments where other people are providing me with the gift of an unexpected positive experience. Last week, it was the flight attendant on my Delta flight home after a couple of long days of traveling who apparently recognized my fatigue and took really great care of me. He really seemed to care about making my flight and my day better. And, that interaction took what could have been a pretty long flight and turned it into a really enjoyable few hours.
Then, recently, some acquaintances have gone out of their way to say some nice things about my work in their blogs or through their Facebook pages. It was unexpected and unprompted and it made me feel great. These comments are like a jolt of electricity for me to keep striving to do good work.
The point is that the time involved in these experience is very small. They represent mere moments in my days. And cost for these gracious people to create these moments for me was probably fairly low. And yet, the impact these moments had on me was tremendous.
For years, I’ve studied the impact that little things can have on any interaction. Smiling at the person across you before you speak or acknowledging someone for doing something cool. These little moments can dramatically change the interaction. But, what became clearer to me last week is that not only can these moments change interactions, they can change the person.
I think these moments are what lie at the heart of motivation and recognition. Creating authentic moments of unexpected delight or validation can change a person’s attitude dramatically. And the irony about this is that I don’t think you can design a program or buy software that will accomplish this. The moment you implement a formal recognition program (a drop for your bucket?), you lose the magic because the unexpected element of these moments is gone because now there is some level of expectation or duty involved. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in formal recognition programs, because there is. I just don’t think that they provide the opportunity to fuel transformation and motivation.
Instead, I think these moments happen when people feel free to express themselves and their talents openly. When we are being our best selves, it’s easier to recognize others doing the same. It means that in our workplaces, people need to be free to be their best and to work with others doing the same. It means having leaders who have a genuine appreciation of people and the courage to speak that appreciation out loud and not just for things that show up in our performance expectations.
I think that as leaders, if we focused our energies on creating magic moments like these for everyone who works around us (including our bosses), we could transform what work feels like.
Or maybe I’m just feeling whimsical today. What do you think?
Moments of Magic® is trademarked by Shep Hyken (www.Hyken.com). Used with permission.