Editor’s note: Today’s Guest Opinion comes from Beverly R. Murray, president of r+m creative in Cary.Remember when we dressed down on Fridays, shot hoops during the lunch hour, had foosball tournaments lasting weeks on end?

Remember when we were a jolly team, all for one and one for all?

How “normal” that office culture was such a short time ago. And in those bygone days, being a strong leader meant being the most popular, planning the next outing for your team.

But is leadership about cheers, or is it about vision?

In today’s workplace environments, the teams are much smaller. Stress-reducing activities often place second to producing more with less. And leadership is often not the most popular position for one to be in.

How does today’s business owner move his team forward in a down economy?

How does he reward the talent within his ranks, acknowledge performance, demonstrate appreciation, and not spend fistfuls of dollars on nothing more than feel-good trinkets?

Asking your staff questions and listening to the answers is a good place to begin.

What does your staff need?

When you think about it, don’t the same few folks always man the foosball table? Where is everyone else? And when you planned the Office Olympics, did half of your staff call in sick?

Showing appreciation for your employees means listening to what is important to them. Talk is cheap, but listening is often cheaper. An employer can waste a lot of time and money on initiatives and ideas that have no value to his team.

Consider conducting a survey of your team or hold breakfast meetings with small groups to get in touch with their needs. The goal is not to do everything on the list; the goal is to make the list and tackle one item at a time showing a commitment to improvement.

Setting goals together

Playing from the same song sheet is imperative. Your team wants to know where the company is headed and how they can help you get there. Set measurable company goals and assist your team with individual goals as well. Make sure that you take the time to check progress … don’t make this a one-time exercise.

Recognize achievements

Even when company bonuses are rewards of the past, recognizing employee achievements remains both the right thing to do and a strong motivator. Innovative employers find creative ways to highlight successes, such as peer-nominated awards, gift certificates to a favorite lunch place, or time off.

Keep learning alive

When budgets make attendance at expensive out-of-town conferences unlikely, it’s important to keep personal development a high priority. Carve time out of employee schedules for study or hold internal “lunch and learns” with guest speakers.


Most employees welcome the opportunity to exhibit leadership and take responsibility for company planning. Why not rotate the responsibility of planning and budgeting bi-monthly educational seminars as well as fun activities. Key talent can be identified when the wise leader delegates to his staff. “– you’re hiring these people because they’re smart, so why not leverage that intelligence?” (See my interview in Smart Money, February 2003 http://www.smartmoney.com/consumer/index.cfm?story=working-february03 )

Play time is an investment

With fewer employees shouldering the load of many, it is critical that employers give time to their teams just to blow off steam. Consider a team-building excursion to the art museum, go bowling, or play laser tag — if these are activities your staff will appreciate. You’ll be surprised what you learn about your employees outside the office.

Help your team give back

A common cause often binds a team together. Let your team select a community not-for-profit, and match volunteer hours with time off or a financial contribution. Allow your staff to hold a fundraiser, man telephones, be part of a speaker’s bureau. Community giving appeals to the higher good and allows your employees to make a difference even while they are at work.

Do the unexpected

Sometimes the most effective inspiration comes when least expected. Ever seen the face of an employee who receives flowers? What would happen if you delivered baskets of fruit or hung balloons just to say thank you?

Effective leadership during up and down economies is essential to company success — but it doesn’t take a cheerleader — nor does it take a large budget. A good imagination serves a leader very well, especially when matched by a strong commitment to listening to his staff.

Beverly R. Murray, founder and president of r+m creative, has dedicated her career to helping companies translate their business vision into effective corporate communications, creating new revenue opportunities. With leadership positions in some of the Triangle’s leading industry and business organizations, matched with a long-term commitment to community giving, Murray also lends her support to fostering North Carolina’s economic growth.

About r+m creative: r+m creative is an award-winning design and marketing agency, celebrating 11 years in business this year.

r + m creative: www.rmcreative.com