Go Bananas! Let your coworkers know you care. 

I was walking through Target on Saturday, February 15th. It had been a few weeks since I’d visited this happy place—the place that greets you with the scent of Starbucks as you walk in and bright, colorful displays teasing you immediately to the dollar section. Smiling employees, wearing their red and khaki, offering to assist you and the lure of knowing that anything you could possibly need (and many things you don’t) are all available within the four walls of this well-merchandised mecca of procured product lines. 

As I was checking items off my list—somewhere between aluminum foil and deodorant—I strolled by the Valentine clearance aisle. From Hershey’s Kisses to heart-shaped pet treats and funny cards to pink fuzzy socks, it was all marked down.

Yes, folks, LOVE was 50% off!

What a difference a day made. 

Of course, I had to take a look. You never know what treasures will be hidden on the shelves. 

I picked up a card that said “Happy Valentine’s Day to my work wife.” 

And a scratch and sniff pizza with the words, “You’re a slice above the rest.”

I then found a pair of felted wool bananas looking at each other lovingly and holding on to a pink heart in the center. I know you can guess the message…

I’m bananas over you!

As I was pondering why anybody would want felted wool bananas in the first place, I noticed the print on the package. It read, “The small felt eyes and stitched red smiles give them a fun and friendly look that’s perfect for setting on your desk at work or an end table in your home as you celebrate Valentine’s Day.

‘Cuz who wouldn’t want felted wool bananas on their work desk, right?

But then I realized that many people would LOVE the bananas on their desk. They’d appreciate—even crave—the recognition that a google-eyed banana or simple card would deliver. 

I believe we fundamentally all need validation. We need our peers, bosses and partners to recognize and acknowledge our contributions. We need to know we are valued.

But how does this work in the workplace? 

In a season of slim budgets and fat performance expectations, what’s a leader to do?

You know the facts: employees who feel appreciated are more productive and engaged. But it’s hard to express the LOVE at work when you are also juggling budgets, meeting business demands, and answering to your board of directors. 

How can you validate the people who work with you and for you?

How can you adequately acknowledge good people and good work?

How can you create a culture of you matter to me in your department?

Here are 6 strategies to show some LOVE as a leader:

❤️ Give the gift of your time. 

When you have face time with a team member, make eye contact. Be present (put your phone down and look away from your computer). And listen. Really listen. Get to know them and what matters to them—personally and professionally. Acknowledge their lives beyond work. Ask about their families, hobbies, pets, passions, and dreams. 

❤️ Be like a Conversation Heart—sweet, clear and concise.

Use your words well. Don’t just think nice things…SAY THEM! How often do we notice a job well done, but don’t make time to offer words of affirmation? That changes today! When you take note of someone doing a job well, let them know it with specific, positive feedback. 

❤️ Send Valentines all year long.

Not every act of employee appreciation has to be a grand gesture. Sometimes the most meaningful recognition is the simplest. A good old fashioned, hand-written thank you note or “just because” card can deliver your love and appreciation any month of the year. Expert tip: keep a file of fun cards in your desk so you can write them out immediately. 

❤️ Channel your inner Aretha Franklin.

Show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Communicate well and often. By keeping your team abreast of the latest company updates and asking for their opinions, when applicable, you are showing them you value their contributions and have trust in their critical thinking skills. 

❤️ Promote Peer Recognition

No success has ever been achieved by a single person. Create a culture of positive peer-to-peer collaboration. Schedule time for praise. At quarterly meetings, invite employees to name another coworker who helped them accomplish a specific task or complete a successful project.

❤️ Give a token gift

If your budget allows, take the opportunity to delight your employees with an occasional gift. Keep a secret stash of gift cards for the sole purpose of rewarding employees for exceptional work. Or if you’re feeling a little “extra” is in order, pick out a personal gift (not something from the work closet with a company logo on it) that says “you matter to me—and to our team.” Maybe it’s a recently-released book. Or a favorite beverage. Or tickets to an event. Or, if you hurry, you might be able to snag those special wool bananas at Target…70% off!

Those were just a handful of suggestions to help you incorporate LOVE into your company culture. There are many more! How do you show LOVE as a leader? How do you validate your team?

Please share your ideas and examples below. 

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