Simon Cohen has a lot to be grateful for. After stepping out of the struggling family business, he not only ventured into a different industry but also was able to expand it to become the largest logistics company in Mexico.

Cohen, an active member of Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), recognized the major flaw in the existing structure--getting materials and product where they needed to be, when they needed to get there. Instead of giving up in frustration, he partnered with his existing logistics supplier and grew the business, ultimately taking over entirely. Today, Henco is doing more to move things in Mexico than any other company, and Cohen is preparing to grow further.

Cohen credits a culture of gratitude for keeping his company happy and productive. He explains his approach: "We were born in a world that is changing constantly, and we do need to adapt to change. So because of change, we have problems, and our role in life as leaders is to solve those problems and jump those obstacles. We can do this either with a bad mood and a provocative attitude, or with--what I consider the best option--a great smile and a huge sense of gratitude."

As those of us in the United States get ready for a holiday of thanks, we can find inspiration in the way Cohen's company communicates gratitude to every employee.

1. "Choose words of gratitude first."

Most people aren't all that careful about the words they use. Cohen believes leaders have to be intentional when they communicate. "We are all human beings, and we are all equal. So, why talk to your employees in a rude or aggressive way? Words can motivate or destroy a person, so be sure to use the correct, positive words each and every time you speak to your team. Always start with a compliment or a thank you, no matter how mad or disappointed you are."

2. "Call people by their names."

Gratitude can't really have its full effect unless it hits the intended target and makes a direct connection. When you throw out phrases of gratitude indiscriminately, it feels canned and empty. Cohen has an easy solution for this. "Everyone likes to be called by his or her name. This is a sign that you care, are really involved with them and are grateful for their presence. If you cannot remember everyone's name, seek out techniques to help you with this."

3. "Make a special effort to show your employees that you REALLY care."

Cohen explains, "Sometimes when I go to my offices abroad, I ask my assistant to tell me more about the people before I land. What happened since that last time I came? Is anyone getting married, having a baby, or celebrating a special event? All these questions make me more sensitive to people. On the day I visit those offices, I say hello to each one of them, thank them for being part of this company, and congratulate them." Cohen walks the walk. During my own visit to his office, my wife and I were treated like royalty and with such enthusiasm I could tell this was an authentic approach with every visitor.

4. "Bring them closer."

Cohen insists on valuing the time of those with whom he works, even when he is footing the bill. He explains, "Motivated, bright people are the biggest asset of any company, and without them we can't make it happen. So listen to your employees. Get closer, have lunch with them, and chat as much as you can. After that, show them your appreciation for spending 'their' time with you."

5. "Surprise them."

Just saying thank you all the time can become tired and meaningless. Cohen has his own approach. "Every so often, do something different--just because. Bring breakfast, buy drinks or give a small speech saying something nice. Even a little gift of chocolate will say a lot. Do it from your heart, and they will feel it."

6. "Share your successes."

Many leaders have an "us" and "them" mentality. Even if it's not contentious, the separation leads to emotional isolation and lack of productivity. Cohen has a better idea. "Every time you have a special event, sign a good contract, or go to an occasion, do not credit yourself. Tell everyone that because of the teamwork amongst your people, their performance and their support, the company was able to close that deal."

7. "Don't just think it. Say it!"

Cohen is adamant that you never want to assume people know you are appreciative of their work and presence. He believes you have to speak up at every opportunity. "We leaders are usually extremely busy and often forget to say what we think. Say thank you every time you can, and people will start to feel different. It feels wonderful to have someone approach you, smile and say something nice. Even when people commit mistakes, tell them that they are wrong with positive words. Don't keep those nice words on your mind... go out there and say it!"

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

 

Published on: Nov 20, 2015