Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A rock-and-roll employment lesson, via the Old 97’s

Last Thursday night, I took my daughter to see the Old 97’s. By way of backstory, Norah performed an Old 97’s song, The New Kid, during her first concert for School of Rock back in January. I tweeted the link to the video to the band’s lead singer, Rhett Miller, who was kind enough (and cool enough) to tweet back, as was the band, who called Norah “badass.” The band was also nice enough to share the video on their Facebook page.

Thanks to a kind gesture from a good friend, Norah and I got to go backstage before the show to meet Rhett. He remembered Norah’s performance from YouTube, they talked about school and his 8-year-old daughter, he told her to call him when she gets her first paying gig, and he posed for some pictures.

The downside of going backstage before a SRO show, however, is that we lost our front-of-stage spot. The upside of going to a concert with an 8-year-old is that she can wiggle her way back through the crowd, and I get to say, “Excuse me, I can’t lose my kid.” Norah found her way back to the front of the stage, right in front of guitarist Ken Bethea, and managed to sit on the stage for the entire concert.

Being that close, I could see the setlist taped to the stage. It certainly appeared to me that the band changed their set mid-show to add The New Kid. Before the song, Rhett talked about Norah and her YouTube video, and called her “a cool kid”. And all these people around us start saying to Norah, “Oh my god! You’re the girl from YouTube. You rock!” Knowing her, I’m surprised she didn’t stand up and take a bow.

During Big Brown Eyes, Rhett appeared to look right a Norah, and, with a big smile, sang the line, “You made a big impression for a girl of your size.”

Rhett name checked Norah again while apologizing to her for the swearing during the show (sorry, video NSFW).

At the end of the show, Rhett walked up to Norah and said, “Norah, this is for you,” and handed her his pick. She was beaming.

It was a magical night for Norah, and I am so happy I got to share it with her. BTW, the band is great live, and if they are in your area, this summer or any other time, you should definitely check them out.

Employers, here’s your homework assignment. Create some magic for your employees. Rhett could have said no when someone asked if we could come backstage, but he didn’t. He didn’t have to change their setlist to add a song, but he did. In fact, he didn’t have to do anything to make Norah feel special, but he did—more than most in his situation would have—and he nurtured a fan for life.

You can (and should) do the same for your employees. And you don’t need big, expensive gestures. The small things count. Here are a few ideas to engage your employees, demonstrate your appreciation of them, and keep them content and engaged:

  • Ask peers to nominate and vote for an employee of the month, whom you recognize with a plaque and gift certificate to a local restaurant.
  • Start a staff-appreciation program, in which employees earn points for behavior you want to incent (such as attendance or punctuality), and can trade in those points for rewards (such as an extra vacation day).
  • Randomly provide longer lunch breaks, in recognition of jobs well done.
  • Circulate department or company-wide emails to praise employees when they have successfully completed a project or otherwise done something worthy of recognition.
  • And, the easiest one of all, pay praise forward. If one employee says something nice about another, make sure the recipient knows about it, as soon as possible.