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Is it the wine or the people?

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creating a positive environment

Is it the wine or the people?

I attended a dinner with wine pairings recently – not my normal event really, but I was invited by a good friend – and I was surprised to learn about environment from the wine distributor, who gave a short speech at the start of the evening.

He said, we all know that wine is great when you have it with the right people, and not so great when it’s with the wrong people.

In other words, great wine is 60% environment and 40% about the wine.

It’s a great example of how we talk about leaders creating the right environment for their initiatives and programs “to work”.

Examples of this are all around us but here are a couple I heard recently –

The CEO of Etsy was asked in a interview how they have continued to grow even after the pandemic, and he said it was about relationships.  Many of The “store owners” are known to send hand written notes to customers with their orders, thanking them. “When is the last time you got a hand written note from the CEO of a big box store?” He asked. It worked because they were creating connections.

A colleague of mine who is diamond status on Delta told me about a similar experience in which the pilot handed him a personalized hand written thank you note after he was seated on the plane.

When he asked about it with surprise, the pilot shocked him even more by explaining that every night he gets a list of passengers for his flight the following day and writes THEM ALL handwritten thank you notes.

A client of mine in one of my leadership courses was dismayed to realize that every time she visited the control room to see the manufacturing operators, they quickly dispersed with urgent tasks to complete.

Once she realized that she mostly brought them bad news in the past, she dusted off her thank you cards and started issuing a few a week.

Within a couple of months the tide had turned, and people were glad to see her again.

This approach of expressing gratitude or praise is not the whole game, but it can go a long way toward creating a positive environment in which the seeds of change can take root and flourish.

I’d love to hear some examples of this sort of gratitude that you have tried yourself or experienced as a customer, write back and share them with me!

  1. Sheila Ide says:

    Working in government limits the ability to reward monetarily with raises or bonuses. I made it a point to write congratulatory notes and thank you’s on accomplishments and job performance issues. They were short and specific as to what prompted the note. I received more positive feedback on that particular habit than I ever expected.

    1. John says:


      Thanks for the comment – yes I agree completely that the handwritten note is often a winner – it’s the genuine nature of it that resonates with many people, whereas even a monetary bonus can be seen as impersonal.

      Take care!

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