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Employee Engagement: Inspiring Your Workforce with Post-It Notes

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Employee Engagement: Inspiring Your Workforce with Post-It Notes

Oct 01, 2014  

by Howard Cohen, CKM

Lesson Learned from Mr. Ken Williams

A few years ago, Ken traveled to the middle east to help the US forces gain a foot up on some bad guys. What he did while he was in theater went well beyond helping civilians, soldiers, sailors and marines. 

He very naturally inspired and engaged a workforce from thousands of miles away, with the stroke of a pen and a Post-it note.

How he did it and why it matters:

Ken is a leader that walks his talk.  He is a man from a different time and I consider myself lucky and blessed to know him. Ken was at the time in charge of a government division that had 80+ contractors, consultants and government civilians.   He was asked to travel to a remote region and help leadership during Operation Enduring Freedom.  At the same time, he was still the leader of the division he left behind.  While he had extremely motivated trusted agents back at home, he still found time to inspire and engage his staff.  I will further point out that my personal role in this division was one of contractor / consultant and in fact, Ken was not only the lead for the division but he was my client.

I arrived home on a weekday after a normal grueling drive in traffic to find a box shipped from overseas with no markings. When I opened the box I found this cup.

The cup came wrapped with the note in it.
Here is the note:

Here is what he wrote:

“Thanks for all you do for the team and for those who remain in harms way.”  On a side note he mentioned that the cup still had dust from Afghanistan in it.

Of course it did.

Clarity of Purpose

In one post-it note and five words in my heart was full.  I was proud to serve and work for Ken and proud of the work we were doing.  Beyond that pride, I knew I had purpose and I knew that what I was doing mattered not just to me but to him.  His handwritten note inspired and fueled not just me but our whole team.   You see, I was not alone in being special and that was alright with me because everyone had something to bring to the table and Ken didn’t let their contribution slide.

To trust a man (person) and have faith in them is hard because you know that even with that trust there are times that they will let you down.  Ken knows that people will fail him but he stands by his belief that “When you give a man your trust, you don’t worry about what he does, just know that he will get it done.”

Real Faith

I don’t work for Ken today but anyone that I know that did work for him including me would answer a call from Ken and seek to help him accomplish any goal or task he sets before us.  Because he truly engaged us in good times and bad and he owed us nothing as consultants and contractors but gave freely his time and his belief.

If you want to succeed in engaging employees, you need to engage them.  You need to know them and you need to make and take the time to let them know.  If a man wrapped up in the middle of a war and the desert can make it happen from thousands of miles away, you can do it from your office or cubicle.

Who is Howie Cohen?

I (Howie) am a leader and more importantly at times “first follower.”  I believe in people even when they let you down.  I believe and practice building trust relationships, as trust is the foundation for all of our relationships.  I am passionate about teaching and learning along the way.  I am stubborn at times but I can be moved because I work very hard to keep an open mind.  I value my lessons from my past but I aim to leverage them to solve challenges today.  I read as much as I can and I help as many people as I can.  I am a stonecutter.
Simply put, I want to help people and I enjoy the feelings associated with that.  A result of my passion, values and character is adding value to the team I am working with.  My family is important to me; they give me purpose and power the engine that drives me.

I am not an overly complicated person as I believe that “Good behavior and good intentions will end with good results.”   As a knowledge worker, I am always engaged and always reinventing myself.

If you are looking for a hardworking driven person that realizes productive results as a byproduct of trusted teamwork and caring, consider reaching out to talk to me.  At the very least something good may come of our conversation!

Find me here! - and on my blog at:

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