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Woodbury:Farm Family Business 01/30 11:05

   Leadership From Outside 

   The power of acknowledging others -- especially family members -- provides 
an invaluable role to the success of your business.  

By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   With respect to job performance, many family business members often joke "no 
news is good news." What they mean is that people in the company shouldn't 
expect to be complimented for their good work. They go on to justify this 
attitude by statements such as "People shouldn't receive praise for doing what 
is expected of them" or "I wasn't raised hearing compliments from my parents."

   I'm not suggesting praise for substandard work; this kind of acknowledgement 
can come across as inauthentic. However, recognizing another person's good work 
or efforts in the family business is important and has several benefits.

   1. Reinforces each person's value. The act of acknowledging someone's good 
work sends a deeper, underlying message. It tells them they have value, they 
mean something in your efforts to build a business, and there is a purpose to 
their work. It gives the recipients of your praise confirmation their labors 
are making a difference. 

   Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, has written that 
"Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more 
precious than the feeling that we truly matter -- that we contribute unique 
value to the whole, and that we're recognized for it."  

   In too many family businesses, recognition of each person's purpose and 
value is often assumed by virtue of the family relationship. As a result, the 
praise tends to go unspoken. The thinking is "you are valued because you are my 
son or my daughter, my wife or my husband," not because of the specific 
contribution you make to the family business. Consider verbally recognizing the 
good work done by family members to give both short-term and long-term 
reinforcement of their value.

   2. Sets the tone for productivity. Acknowledging someone's accomplishments 
shines a light on what they've achieved. And since getting things done is a 
hallmark of organizational progress, recognizing and celebrating an 
individual's success encourages momentum, providing a shot of energy to 
additional forward movement. 

   In a family business, however, the ownership idea that "someday this will 
all be yours" is often expected to be enough of a carrot to keep people engaged 
over the long haul. Instead of telling family members "good job," we expect 
them to remember that they will inherit the business. A shorter-term 
reinforcement and positive comment on their work reminds them they are moving 
in the right direction. Such remarks can help ensure high levels of 

   3. Positively impacts culture. Giving only negative feedback reinforces 
individual feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, fosters a lousy 
workplace environment, and creates high turnover and low morale. Such results 
spell trouble for rural and agricultural businesses needing a qualified labor 
force. When your workplace develops a reputation for negativity, your ability 
to attract quality help decreases. Your culture is seen as "toxic."

   A culture of sincere recognition not only helps people feel better about 
themselves, but also where they work. The families I've seen express gratitude 
for one another's efforts seem to enjoy a more pleasant work environment. Their 
appreciation of others often starts with those in the family and spreads to 
others in the organization. Voicing gratefulness is a foundational habit on 
which a positive culture is built. The resultant fun, deeper relationships and 
enjoyment of one another is the evidence of this positive culture.

   What does it cost to recognize a family member for doing good work? 
Alternatively, what might it cost your organization if people don't feel 
recognized for their efforts? I realize in a family business environment it can 
be awkward to verbally acknowledge our loved ones. However, an investment in 
recognizing someone can truly benefit everyone.

   Editor's Note: Lance Woodbury writes columns for both DTN and our sister 
publication, "The Progressive Farmer." He is a Garden City, Kan., author, 
consultant and professional mediator specializing in agriculture and 
closely-held businesses.


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