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Recognize Excellence to Make a Difference

Recognize Excellence to Make a Difference

Recognize Excellence to Make a Difference

    It was Monday, December 29 and I wasn’t happy.  I had spent part of the morning at home working on odds and ends and another part of the morning at the office working on a book review and a few other things.  I was in a funk because I’d forgotten to answer an email from a friend and mentor asking about having lunch today, I had a billion little things to do, and to top it off, I had to go to the local inspection station for a third emissions test to see if the $560 or so I had plowed into my 1995 Saturn had reduced my hydrocarbon emissions enough to please the City of Memphis (it didn’t; about $300-$400 later, it finally did).  Comfort food is a natural human weakness that is especially appealing when one isn’t happy.  I opted for Taco Bell.

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    I pulled into the drive-thru and fully expected my order to be handled with outright belligerence, as had been my experience at other fast food outlets recently.  I was surprised, nay, shocked, when the person who took my order was genuinely cheerful, clear, and helpful. I was further surprised to find that my food was hot, my order was 100% correct, and my takeout bag included a wet nap and a mint.  Not bad for less than $4.

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    I resolved then and there that I would find out how I could recognize the service I had received.   I wrote the first draft of this while waiting in line to have my car checked; since I bought a MacBook Air a few months ago, I can type from the “comfort” of my driver’s seat, and after returning home from a recent trip I visited the feedback website and let them know how happy I was with my experience.

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    This speaks to a larger issue that will be of interest to Lifehack readers: how do we get the most bang for our buck in our charitable endeavors? As a citizen, I want to help those who are less well-off than I am.  As an economist, however, I am all too aware of the law of unintended consequences and the frequency with which our charitable endeavors actually work to the detriment of those we wish to help.  Tyler Cowen has an excellent discussion of this in his 2007 book Discover Your Inner Economist: he notes that in parts of India, people actually pay to have limbs amputated in order to increase their begging take.  This is positively destructive, so the concerned citizen interested in maximizing bang for his or her charitable buck will want to look for ways to transfer resources without distorting incentives.

    One way to do this is by providing positive feedback where it is warranted.  Few people taking orders at fast food restaurants will be in the same position in a few years, and employers are always looking for ways to identify talent.  Giving credit where credit is due is one way to help people get a leg up in life.  In addition, markets work more efficiently the more valuable information is available.

    There are added benefits, too.  As a college professor, I try to teach my students the ability to offer constructive criticism.  I regularly ask students to send me an email at the end of the semester detailing what they liked the most and what they liked the least about my courses.  Providing feedback on customer service when it is requested (or when it is appropriate) is an easy way to practice giving constructive feedback while helping people who deserve it.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

    How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

    If I was a super hero I’d want my super power to be the ability to motivate everyone around me. Think of how many problems you could solve just by being able to motivate people towards their goals. You wouldn’t be frustrated by lazy co-workers. You wouldn’t be mad at your partner for wasting the weekend in front of the TV. Also, the more people around you are motivated toward their dreams, the more you can capitalize off their successes.

    Being able to motivate people is key to your success at work, at home, and in the future because no one can achieve anything alone. We all need the help of others.

    So, how to motivate people? Here are 7 ways to motivate others even you can do.

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    1. Listen

    Most people start out trying to motivate someone by giving them a lengthy speech, but this rarely works because motivation has to start inside others. The best way to motivate others is to start by listening to what they want to do. Find out what the person’s goals and dreams are. If it’s something you want to encourage, then continue through these steps.

    2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

    Open-ended questions are the best way to figure out what someone’s dreams are. If you can’t think of anything to ask, start with, “What have you always wanted to do?”

    “Why do you want to do that?”

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    “What makes you so excited about it?”

    “How long has that been your dream?”

    You need this information the help you with the following steps.

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    3. Encourage

    This is the most important step, because starting a dream is scary. People are so scared they will fail or look stupid, many never try to reach their goals, so this is where you come in. You must encourage them. Say things like, “I think you will be great at that.” Better yet, say, “I think your skills in X will help you succeed.” For example if you have a friend who wants to own a pet store, say, “You are so great with animals, I think you will be excellent at running a pet store.”

    4. Ask About What the First Step Will Be

    After you’ve encouraged them, find how they will start. If they don’t know, you can make suggestions, but it’s better to let the person figure out the first step themselves so they can be committed to the process.

    5. Dream

    This is the most fun step, because you can dream about success. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your business took off, and you didn’t have to work at that job you hate?” By allowing others to dream, you solidify the motivation in place and connect their dreams to a future reality.

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    6. Ask How You Can Help

    Most of the time, others won’t need anything from you, but it’s always good to offer. Just letting the person know you’re there will help motivate them to start. And, who knows, maybe your skills can help.

    7. Follow Up

    Periodically, over the course of the next year, ask them how their goal is going. This way you can find out what progress has been made. You may need to do the seven steps again, or they may need motivation in another area of their life.

    Final Thoughts

    By following these seven steps, you’ll be able to encourage the people around you to achieve their dreams and goals. In return, you’ll be more passionate about getting to your goals, you’ll be surrounded by successful people, and others will want to help you reach your dreams …

    Oh, and you’ll become a motivational super hero. Time to get a cape!

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    Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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