A $10,000 Post-it Note

 My favorite, I mean absolute favorite, exercise to do with a team has to do with a Post-it Note. Anybody still use them? Funny that with all of the technology options available to capture a thought, I still see Agile software developers use them to list out and distribute work tasks. This exercise though is a very non-traditional use of the good old Post-it Note. I wish I could remember the source, it’s not my original idea.


I’d love to credit them because it works every time, and has been worth more than $10k to me and the businesses I serve.


Have you ever tried to monetize the value of encouragement? I suspect you know the value of a particular investment and its proposed effect on capacity or efficiency. There is a variety of methods for tracking the return on capital expenses but what about a simple “job well done?” I’ll admit that my output is directly proportional to my interest in the assignment multiplied by the confidence I have in doing it well. 


I’m imperfect and often insecure. 


How do we replace the feelings of insecurity with confidence? Encouragement. There have been specific times that I can remember where a bit of recognition for doing a job well done, resulted in my performance improving by more than 50% on a similar task. Think I’m crazy? Well test me. Seriously do this exercise with your team. It’s an insight into the human psyche and a powerful tool for your business.


All you need is a leadership team, a room with high ceilings (9’+), stack of Post-it Notes and a willing volunteer. Pick the volunteer who you think is the most “reluctant” to any forms of encouragement, or the most athletic one. Trust me it will make sense in a second. Once you have your volunteer selected, let’s call him Carl, have them take individual Post-it Notes and place them as high as possible on the wall. They are jumping and reaching as high as possible inching up the wall ever so slightly with each attempt. You and the team will start to notice a grouping of notes and a lack of progress in getting a note any higher on the wall. This may take 5 – 10 attempts. Have Carl stop when he doesn’t think he can get a note any higher on the wall. He has hit his limit, defined his 100%.


Look at the group and ask this rhetorical question. “Do we think that Carl can do any better”?


Then immediately start a slow clap. A steady cadence of clapping that slowly quickens and gets louder. As the volume grows and the pace quickens add in some encouraging words and affirmation, whatever comes out from the team. Give this 60-90 seconds in all and then ask Carl to make one final attempt at putting the note as high up on the wall as possible.


The Result?


Well this imperfect leader has seen some pretty amazing increases. Most of the time the post it note is all alone, many inches above the grouping placed just a minute ago. I’d say that on average its 50% higher than the original highest note when you consider the range of notes on the wall. 


Turn this exercise into a practical commitment to encourage your leaders and monetize the value. If you could get even just 10% more out of your team what could it do to your bottom line? What problems could you solve? I can’t image you calculate anything less than $10,000.


Dedicate time weekly to recognize an individual and watch your productivity soar.


So what’s the imperfect insight?

My lack of encouraging others is costing us real dollars and progress.

Perhaps more than $10,000 worth!