Don't Complain, Congratulate!

As a leader, every single day, you have a choice to focus your energy on what isn’t working or on what is. Both can be effective, but I choose to focus more of my attention on the latter.

I think this goes far beyond business. It’s a guiding philosophy in my entire life.

I’d rather spend more time praising my kids for being great than harping on them for their missteps and mistakes.

The net result of shining a light on the great things that are happening in our lives and our businesses is spectacular.

Being intentional about shining a light on great things is what makes them grow.

The world is really good at telling us what’s not working. If you don’t believe me, turn on any cable news channel at any time of day.

That much negativity takes a toll.

To be clear, I’m not here to tell you to forget or ignore the negatives. But the best way to banish darkness is with a powerful light.

“Better to light the candle than curse the darkness.” – Chinese Proverb

The best way to clear out the crud is to take a pulse on what is working and what isn’t, then shine a light on what IS working. Acknowledge it, celebrate it, and watch it grow.

I try to live that as a husband, a father, a friend, and as CEO at Roma.

In a business setting, it’s obviously a slightly different ballgame. Opportunities to offer praise can get lost in the shuffle if you aren’t super intentional about it.

At Roma, we’re intentional about giving praise. In fact, that’s one of our “secret weapons.” It fuels team unity and teamwork at all levels of our organization, regardless of what country or distribution center or role you’re in. We've even systemized it in a few ways.

Core Values Cards

Core Values Cards are the system we’ve devised to give peer-to-peer acknowledgments. There are no proverbial carrots, incentives, or prizes associated with them. Just the satisfaction of praising another human, the accompanying jolt of dopamine, and the sense of team unity.

“What’s a Core Values Card, Tony?”

It’s a great way to offer appreciation and praise to a teammate that goes a step beyond a simple thank you and puts it into a simple, tangible form. 

Physically, they’re colorful 3x3 cards, sort of like the Valentine’s Day cards we all used to love getting in school as kids. There are 10 versions, each with one of our 10 Core Values printed on them. There’s a space on the card for the giver to write a message of thanks, acknowledgement, or praise along with the date. You can see pictures of them and learn more about our Core Values here.

Twice a year, we hyperfocus on delivering peer-to-peer praise through what we’ve coined, Core Values Awareness Week, but that’s just the big event. We all give out Core Values Cards year-round.

We started using the cards about seven years ago and I am here to tell you, it NEVER gets old. Giving them. Receiving them. It’s always special.

If you join one of our tours through our offices, you’ll see them plastered on everyone’s workspaces. They’re like a little trophy, a tactile token of praise and appreciation. They’re cherished.

Personally, I showcase the cards I’ve received on my desk. It’s a constant reminder of the appreciation. I have cards around my desk from the very first printing. It’s nice to look back and reflect on them and even though some of those people are no longer with the team, their contribution lives on.

And one of the coolest things about the Core Values Cards is that they’re 100% voluntary. If you’re going to take the time to write and deliver a card to a colleague, it’s entirely for the recipient’s benefit. There’s no prize for giving out the most cards, or mandate to use them whatsoever.

Because in order for the cards to be truly effective, it HAS to be 100% genuine.

Receiving a card is such a beautiful feeling and it’s an equally if not even more awesome feeling to deliver a card.

We have Core Value Card stations sprinkled throughout our global headquarters as well as all the distribution centers and we’ve made them digital as well so that our remote teammates can participate.

We estimate that about 2400 cards are given each year. Which is about 15,000 cards since its inception.

And that’s just the Core Values Cards!

Starting the Day with a Dose of Dopamine

We also have our “Daily Dose of Dopamine”  AKA “Triple D” AKA “Daily Dose of Dope” emails sent out by the leaders of each department to the whole Roma family.

(No, not that kind of dope. Dopamine is a kind of "feel-good" neurotransmitter triggered as part of the brain's reward system. The smell of coffee brewing in the morning, completing a task, receiving good news, getting praise for an accomplishment, all these things can trigger dopamine release. If you want to geek out on dopamine's many roles, check out this article.

Each department sends out their win of the week on different days so at least two go out every morning.

It’s a great way to share and celebrate wins, both big and small, with the entire company. It might be a big sale or a company award, but it might also be a shop floor that’s been reorganized in brilliant fashion or a big order that went out early. It might be positive feedback from a partner who called into customer care or an upgrade to our servers.

Regardless of what it is, we’re intentional about shining a light on the great things that happen. And every day we all get to start our day with an awesome dose of dopamine. They give us the opportunity to share and celebrate the wins and with the entire company.

The Systems are Just the Seed

It's important to note that while these systems we've put in place are fantastic, they aren't the end product. They're the catalyst. They are just a few of the tools we use to cultivate a culture that puts a premium on praise.

Praise flows into gratitude and appreciation which permeates throughout an organization. It builds bonds and friendships. It strengthens relationships and heightens collaboration.

We cultivate praise, acknowledgement, and appreciation like some people cultivate crops. We give it a lot of light and a lot of attention and enjoy the bounty as it grows and grows.

Which is probably why we get to celebrate wins like our most recent survey returning a 92% internal net promoter score!

For a leader, those are the best wins of all.

I invite you, fellow leader reading this, to take a pulse:

1. How are you cultivating a culture that values praise and celebrates wins?

2. What percentage of your time and energy are you focusing on what isn’t working vs what is working?

3. What can you do to be more intentional about praise?

You might be amazed at how brilliant the results are when you shine the light in all the right places.

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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