Pat on the Shoulder

I recently had the honor of leading three team development components of the JSCFCU Training Day for 240 employees.  Included in the program is an important point that I use in many motivational and team development programs:  the power of the pat on the shoulder.

In 1987, I had been at work at my first job in higher education for about three months.  As I worked in commons area in the dean’s suite, the dean, Roger Eichhorn, walked by and patted me on the shoulder  and said, “You’re doing a good job.  Thanks.  Keep it up.”  For a young man who had left the familiar profession of writer/photographer and was hoping to have found a new path to care for his family, the dean’s comment provided encouragement and assurance.

In about 2004, I conducted a workshop for some women managers at NASA/JSC where one shared the story of a manager patting her on the shoulder decades before.  He told her, “You have what it takes to be a manager.  If you want to be a manager, I can help you get there.”  She became one of the early woman managers at the center.

Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  I believe a sincere pat on the back or tap on the shoulder extends that for years.

At the team development workshop for JSCFCU, I shared a story of an unknown-to-me credit union employee and how she handled an old WWII veteran on an oxygen tank with grace, respect and kindness.  I had witnessed her work months before and believed that calling it out would serve as a wonderful example to the rest of the members of the team at the all-day workshop.  A couple of days later, the woman sent me an email and identified herself as the one in the story.  She closed her message with “Thank you for the tap on the shoulder.”

Never forget the power of the simple touch and simple words that say, “You’re doing a great job.  Thank you.”

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