The Biggest Bonus I Ever PAID

In a cluster of Colorado facilities I’ve been a part of these last couple months, we’ve been talking about how to create a culture — within our cluster/company and within our facilities.  It’s a topic I feel passionately about and one that I’ve personally participated in at a couple facilities and at a ‘corporate support office’ setting.  I’ve personally seen MASSIVE strides forward as teams dedicate themselves to a deliberate defining, planting, growing, and nurturing of a unique culture.  The process of creating that will be covered in another post.

Part of growing and nurturing a culture relates to where the rubber hits the road or when staff can see you put your carrot or stick where your mouth is.  The most powerful example of that is a story I’ve shared a lot in training settings about establishing a culture — a story of the biggest bonus I ever gave.

Several years ago, my new team and I had just defined our new culture.  Our mission, promise, motto, standards, etc.  It was time to show that it was real.
The culture was starting to do what it’s supposed to do — produce results (clinical and financial and resident/patient satisfaction).  After a solid month, I asked my department heads who “lived the culture in your departments the best.”  I received a handful of names and emailed my payroll manager the following:
On payday, please bring me the paychecks of Maria, Cathy, Jennie, Don, and Debbie. (names have been changed).  I’d like them to pick them up from me directly.  In addition, please create separate bonus checks in the following amounts:
     – Maria: $200
     – Cathy: $500
     – Jennie: $300
     – Don: $1,000
     – Debbie: $150
When payday came, Maria went to the payroll manager to pick up her check.  Here’s what went down …
Maria: Hi, can I have my check?
Payroll: Oh, no.  Sorry.  Dave has your check.
Maria: [struck with concern] But, why?
Payroll: You know … he didn’t say.  But, he wants to give it to you himself.
Maria: No.  Really.  Why?  What did I do?
Payroll: No idea, Maria.
     – Maria did not come to my office.  She spoke with the other housekeepers.  She confirmed her fear … they had all received their checks.  She was worried.  Was she going to lose her job?
     – Finally, after her shift was over, she came to my office.
Maria: Hello, Dave.
Me: Maria, come on in.  Have a seat.
Maria: Ok. Payroll tells me you have my check.
Me: Oh, right.  Yeah, have a seat.  [we sit down and I reach into my desk for her check(s)]
Me: Do you know why I have your check, Maria?
Maria: [Visibly worried] No.  Did I do something?
Me: [Smiling] … Sort of.  But, it’s not what you think.  See, last month was a very busy month here.
Maria: Yes.  Lots of room changes!
Me: That’s right.  You guys were very busy making room for the growing census.  Well, when we get very busy like that, we do better financially.  And when we do, we like to share it with those who were so important to making it happen.  So, last week I asked your supervisor, “who lived our culture [me pointing to the newly defined culture poster on my wall] this last month the best?”  Do you know who he said?
Maria: [Recognition coming to her of pending good news] Maybe me?
Me: Yes!  He said you.  In fact, here’s what he told me about you (related the specifics to the newly defined culture on the wall).
Maria is becoming visibly happy.
Me: So, yes … here’s your paycheck. And, here’s another check. It’s a small token of appreciation for being a great example of what we’re trying to become.
Maria: [she opens the bonus and immediately weeps.  As a housekeeper, she had never received a bonus before.]
We talked about what she’ll do with the money.  She’s SO grateful.  I tell her that compensation and bonuses are confidential so please don’t share this news with anyone.

This happens to be the best way to get the word out 🙂  Why?

= Her colleagues already know she didn’t get her paycheck and they’ll be anxious to hear why she had to get it from me directly.  She’ll tell them.  And, that’s exactly what I hope happens.
I hope that the message spreads fast that you can get a bonus when 1) we do well as a facility and 2) are modeling the behavior/culture we are striving to establish.
It’s the biggest bonus I ever paid as measured by its impact on our facility culture.  Here’s why:
  • Everybody was stoked for Maria
  • Communicating to Maria that she got it because of her supervisor built loyalty between her and her supervisor instead of between her and me.
  • Her supervisor, my direct report, was grateful that I made him look like a thoughtful, generous boss.
  • The staff began to believe that we really were committed to the mission we had collectively defined.

Now … multiply that by the other people who received bonuses that month and the subsequent 6 months and you can see how putting your money where your mouth is will ACCELERATE the momentum we need to as we’re looking to transform or strengthen the facility cultures we’re responsible for.

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One thought on “The Biggest Bonus I Ever PAID

  1. I’m impressed with this new culture. Who wouldn’t want to do their very best and be rewarded for their positive efforts!?

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