Sometimes what people need from their managers and leaders is just a personal touch.  I was talking to some participants at lunch yesterday and we got on the subject of the small things that bosses do that end up being very important to their direct reports.  These are the things that are likely to get mentioned when they retire or move on to greener pastures:  These are the things that often define them as a leader.

One participant who worked for a major candy company remembered a boss that left bowls of the Halloween-sized bars around for people to nibble on.  Since that tradition no longer exists, he said that many people talk about it nostalgically.  What they remember about the “new guy,” who came in and took away that tradition, is simply that he ended that tradition.  That will likely be his sad legacy:  he took away the bowls of candy.

I myself remember a boss once who informally took each of his Deans out to lunch at local inexpensive eateries.  He advised me to do the same, and to make sure my directors knew I was paying for it with my own money, not expensing it.  I watched how he did this.  He picked up the check, paid with cash, and left the receipt behind.  No questions.  I pass this now legendary advice along to all my participants.

Another participant remembered how much his work group appreciated a manager who came around himself and delivered their paychecks, thanking them for their service.  One of our presidents had a monthly birthday party for everyone who had birthdays that month.  Many people spoke of how much they appreciated the chance to just talk to him.  He also sent each of us thank you cards at our anniversaries.  A lot of people have saved those cards.  I know he had his secretary address them.  He was a very busy man.  But at least he signed them himself.

Another person remembered a place she worked in Atlanta where on Friday they wore jeans and had doughnuts and a coffee chat for about an hour before they began work.  I remembered how important it had been for us trainers to eat lunch together at the same table, and we thought of a president who had been thoughtful enough to occasionally join us.  Nobody was crazy enough to think he would do it every day, but it surely was nice that he did it once in a while.

My husband used to bring sausage biscuits to his direct reports for their monthly meetings.  People still mention that when they run into him from time to time.  One of our vice presidents used to have Friday afternoon wine-downs once in a while.  One vice president I worked for used to send us little thank you notes he had printed off at the print shop.  No big deal.  He passed his legacy along to us when he left by having pads of thank you notes printed for each of us.  Pass it along.

What’s your legacy?  What little things are you doing that define your personality a bit as a leader?  What are the small things you do that people will miss when you are gone?

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