My number one leadership rule is something I learned from my 93-year-old father. He has been a judge for over 40 years. After high school, I would walk to his office to catch a ride home. Usually, he would be meeting with someone in his chamber. They would be in deep conversation while sharing afternoon tea. As I watched, I thought there must be some very important legal matter being discussed. Maybe there was, but what really stood out to me was this observation: My dad listened intently, smiled warmly, shared a kind word, and included a firm handshake. After the discussion, each person left with a wide smile and seemed to step a little lighter. This scenario played out time after time.

“Giving people a little more than they expect is a good way to get back a lot more than you’d expect.”—Robert Half

I strive to practice this leadership skill each day, and have seen a positive impact on our team.

I read the book How Full Is Your Bucket?, by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton; they describe the importance of positive impact in the workplace through The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket. Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each moment, we can use our dipper to fill or to dip from another person’s bucket.

Good leadership requires you to have someone to follow you. Studies have demonstrated that positive interaction, direction, and energy increase productivity. In healthcare, our employees are required to give to their patients and customers all day long. They finish up for the day and head home to give to their families. Without leaders who provide recognition or praise of a job well done or provide a moment of encouragement, their employee buckets are pretty empty at the end of the day. Industry surveys say many employees leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated.

By increasing positive energy in our organizations, we can improve job satisfaction, customer and employee retention, increase productivity, and maybe even the unthinkable—allow…work to be fun.

My experience taught me success is built on taking every opportunity to really listen, provide a bit of praise, fill someone’s bucket. Employees are happier and more productive, business is strong, and even life is better. In retrospect, I now know that I watched my father fill many buckets. And as the author stated, “Don’t waste another moment—another bucket is waiting for you to fill it.”