Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24

John Ramstead was at our Advance Leadership Workshop event yesterday. The community received excellent leadership training and equipping from a former Navy Top Gun pilot who also happens to have a top 5 Leadership podcast. He is worth a listen.

One of the key takeaways was about building culture.

Culture is hard to measure. It takes a long time to build it and a short time to tear it down. In fact, three to five percent of your employees can turn your company culture around. Similarly, three to five percent of your employees can also hold it hostage.

I’m always looking for ways to help the community of companies we serve in our owner and CEO mastermind groups. One idea hit everyone in the room squarely in the eyes.


You are floored, right? It’s a magic pill and will cure all your woes!

OK, not true, but I bet you don’t do it regularly even though the benefits are high and the cost is free.

Why don’t you affirm your employees?

The room was alive with ideas when John asked that question. Leaders don’t affirm others because:

• I’m task oriented.
• I can’t measure the ROI.
• It requires humility.
• I don’t think about it.
• I might be seen as weak.
• My employees will think I have ulterior motives.
• It’s just not me. It won’t be authentic.
• I don’t want to convey favoritism.
• I naturally look for what we can fix versus what we are doing well

As people were raising their hands and recounting above, there were many nodding heads. At the same time, the room began to smile at how silly some of the answers sounded.

The above answers are just excuses to focus on the next objective, goal, or achievement.

What John went on to explain was when you affirm your team and employees, you create a culture of care, pride, safety, execution, fun, meaning, and joy.
Catching others doing something well or thanking them for a job well-done costs you nothing and gives you a lot.


It is not flattery. Flattery is really about you because it starts with the words I.

“I would like to thank you …”

“I want to let you know …”

You’ll see this style of flattery on the awards shows like the Oscars. “I would like to thank my producer, and my mother …” You would? Then just thank them.

He put us to the test and asked us to affirm someone else at our table. I failed twice as I started with “I”

My tablemate was much better.

“Thank you for ….” It was just that simple. Dang.


Affirmation is about the receiver.
Make it about him or her so leave “I” out of it.

Be specific.
When you can isolate why you are thanking them or the behavior tied to the affirmation you reinforce actions that employees will want to do again.

Be honest.
Authenticity is key. People have accurate BS meters, so if you make something fluffy up or give kudos when it is not due, they will know.

The challenge that John left us with was to affirm three people in the next 24 hours and report back what happened. Yes, it will feel awkward. If you aren’t sure how it will go at work, start at home. Your kids and spouse are a no-brainer training ground with unlimited potential to improve your relationships.

Three affirmations, 24 hours. Watch what happens, build a new habit, and start building a better culture investing in your people without dinging your pocketbook.

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
August 14, 2018
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.