The 3-E’s, early, eminently, and equality, thus forming the fundamental principles of the employee/employer relationship. Too many times only early is practiced, and the problems emanating result in reduced employee morale, purposeful negative actions, and disruption of the business by both customers and employees acting in a resentful manner. In order to fully understand the power of combining the 3-E’s, we must first detail, define, and describe.
Early is often considered as akin to new, fresh, and initial; yet, the better application for this topic is in timeliness, punctuality, and promptness. For example, when a problem occurs, the earlier it is addressed the faster and less damaging the problem becomes to the business as a whole. Not taking precipitous action leaves the problem festering and infecting eventually leading to organizational cancer (Dandira, 2012), low employee morale, and managerial inertia slowing business processes and increasing the damage. Hence, prompt, punctual, and timely action to address a situation early enough to affect positively the outcome remains the order of the day and the strongest power business leaders can take with the 3-E’s, but early action is not enough.
Eminent is often considered as akin to celebrity, paramount, and superior; yet a more preferred definition for this topic is often conspicuous and influential. When an eminent action is taken, the action tends to supersede current policies, procedures, and overlaps or drowns normal work. Overlaps and superseding are dangerous actions leading to increased costs, lost work, customer complaints, and a general lack of trust in business leadership to properly prior plan and produce positive performances from the business structure. These thoughts are fed with celebrity-like marketing on new policies, business leaders, and changes, which are not fully understood and appreciated by the employees most affected. Hence, the need to be frequently engaged, seen being influential in the lives of employees, and known as a person who cares remains the key leadership quality developed by eminent action; yet eminent actions, even if conducted early, are insufficient to properly influence and meet the demands of business.
Equality is often considered as sameness, fairness, and uniformity; yet, all of these definitions fail to capture what equality truly is and the power of equality. For this topic, consider the following: equipoise, parity, and concurrence. Employees are individuals. They might have similar job titles and responsibilities, but the individual approach to the position provides power and separates the individuals and does not collect, compress, and concentrate into carbon copies. Hence, the same approach of uniform application is not meeting the needs of the employees nor is it meeting the definition of fair. Thus, the employee needs equality that treats them as individuals concurring in practice, but are individual in approach, and brings parity into treatment as an expression of equipoise. While early is good and early mixed with eminence is better, but without early, eminent, and equal combined into an action, the employee and the employer suffer in an environment of disaster fed by chaos, corruption, and cancer as detailed by Dandira (2012).
Consistency remains key to employee/manager relationships. While the principles of 3-E’s are important, all the work of the 3-E’s can be wasted if consistency is not honored and observed by the employees. Consistency requires flexibility, firmness, and fungibility to meet the demands of creating success in using the 3-E’s appropriately. The main factor in employee/employer relationships continues to be the individual nature of each employee, not the requirement to make all employees the same carbon copy of another employee or an “ideal” of the desired employee.
Putting these principles into practice requires asking questions, such as “Are employee communications being expressed early, eminently, and equally?” “Are actions taken by business leaders being perceived as meeting the 3-E’s?” “Do the trend lines in application indicate consistency or inconsistency?” While employee perceptions can and often remain hidden, except through properly capturing actionable data in key performance indicators, the answers to these questions and more are evident. Look at the employees, who show up to work excited, enthused, and enthralled. Ask them why they possess these qualities. Then, ask those employees not possessing them and hone in on the differences. Will employees change from day-to-day; probably, but the answers continue to be important indicators as to whether communication in the organization is occurring.
Sinek (2009) offers that asking why and truly listening to the answers being returned remains the most effective question and action series employers can take from day-to-day as the pulse of the organization. Gitomer (1998) adds that leaders after asking “why” should ask “what” to empower change and drive motivation. Consider for a moment, an employee is asked “why” they feel the way they feel, then “what” would that employee like to see changed to aid in feeling differently, and project the employee’s reaction to having been heard. Project that employee’s reaction if they see the changes they offered implemented into business practice.
Are all employee suggestions implemented; no, this is not feasible and the employees know this when making suggestions. Yet, when employee suggestions are implemented, this changes the employee dynamic for all employees. Ask yourself, when was the last time an employee suggestion was implemented and marketed to the other employees? If the time is longer than 6-months, the program is not consistently being implemented and there is a problem with using the 3-E’s.
Steenhuysen (2009) reported on research discussing the power of praise. Where praise is offered genuinely, praise has the power to change, and the research supports that the power of genuine praise operates on the same reward sections of the brain as cash. Anecdotal evidence shows many employees appreciate genuine praise, sometimes more than cash. As a business leader or employer, ask yourself, “When was the last time I caught someone doing good and offered praise?” If the answer was not yesterday, there is a problem with the 3-E’s, and consistency will be needed to rectify this problem. Are you setting the goal to not leave the office without offering genuine praise? Remember, Steenhuysen (2009) is reporting that praise is its own reward. The research and anecdotal evidence present praise as being as good as cash to the brain. Hence, praise is its own reward; can objects be added to potentially increase the reward, yes. But start with praise, honestly provided and employing the 3-E’s.
Case in point, I have worked with a VP of Customer Service Operations who carries with them yellow and purple post-it notes. The purple are for catching people in the act of good. From simple actions to amazing calls, they all get recognition on purple post-it notes as a very noticeable action the business leader can take to catch and praise the good. The yellow post-it notes go to the team leader when training is needed. Consistent action over the years has developed a spirit of competition to earn and be caught doing an act of good. The yellow notes are not remembered at bonus time; more serious infractions have a set process to follow, and the less serious yellow post-it notes are simply a means of providing timely feedback employing the spirit of the 3-E’s. Upon starting this program, almost a full year passed before the employees caught on and the word of this action spread. Let consistent action be seen, not marketed, and let the word spread by enthused employees.
The best part of the program from an employee perspective is the highest earners of purple post-it notes eventually began earning additional non-cash rewards also presented in a quiet manner. The rewards ranged from leaving an hour early with pay, longer lunches or breaks with pay, to movie tickets and dinner cards. These extra steps were implemented when trends reflected some employees were taking extra efforts to be caught thus necessitating a need for other levels of reward to keep the interest of the employees in acting and performing to a higher level. Never are these employees recognized openly, e.g., at a company meeting, marketed to other employees, e.g., in a company newsletter, and receiving the purple notes is not a competition.
These purple post-it notes are an expression of gratitude from a person in leadership to an employee working hard. Quiet, consistent, application of the 3-E’s provided a failing business unit new life in employee interactions with each other and the external customers. The actions taken here should not be rare or the exception in employee/employer relationships, but the standard and personalized to each business and business leader. What can we learn here to apply to all business units and organizations?
- Whatever is done consistent action remains critical.
- Simple, quiet, and direct remain key to affecting positive results on a personal level. Be brave! Be honest! Be courageous! Be seen acting as you would see all employees act. These will provide an impetus for others to emulate actions taken and good will develop.
- Know the 3-E’s, whether you are currently an employee or a business leader of hundreds or thousands. The 3-E’s are a two-directional action possessing power for positive results. Use this power to drive a solution that can be consistently applied.
- If what is being tried is not working, do not act abruptly. Quietly adjust until positive actions can be seen and verified through trend lines. What is being done currently might simply need more time or more quiet publicity to be discussed by the employees. Make small adjustments and act for the interest of individuals; the whole population will catch on.
- A word of caution. Never use this program for self-aggrandizement; this will kill the program faster than a bullet to the 10-ring. Do not enter into this program and offer non-genuine praise or false and ambiguous words and canned phrases. Be specific and capture the incidents exactly, ask questions if needed, but be genuine and specific.
Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267
Gitomer, J. (1998). Customer satisfaction is worthless – Customer loyalty is priceless. Atlanta, GA: Bard Press.
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Steenhuysen, J. Praise as good as cash to brain: study. (2009, February 26). Reuters. Science. Accessed from: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN2343219520080424?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews
© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
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