Grateful Leadership—Business Fuel Podcast #48

10 min read • Sep 17, 2013 • Ty Kiisel


Business-Fuel-Podcast-BlogListen to our interview with Judith Umlas

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Think you’re employees should just be thankful they have a job? Wash your mouth out with soap!

Do you appreciate your employees? You might be surprised at just how powerful a motivation tool that might be. What’s more, the U.S. Army is on board and regularly consults with Umlas to help them discover the best way to motivate and inspire their troops. What does the Army and thousands of other businesses know that you don’t. Check out today’s podcast. You’ll thank me later.

Don’t forget to join us for the live Twitter chat at Noon Central on #businessfuel

Readable Transcript

Information you need, the podcasts you trust, this is the podcast network.  Bringing you interviews with top business professionals and business financing tips to fuel your American dream.  This is The Business Fuel Podcast heard exclusively on  And now, here are your hosts, Ty Kiisel and Patrick Wiscombe.

Sponsorship:  This podcast is sponsored by  The online source you need to find the right business financing to grow your company.  Check them out for free at to get your business growing right now.

Patrick Wiscombe:  This is The Business Fuel Podcast.  Good morning, I’m Patrick Wiscombe.  Thank you for tuning us in and taking us along wherever and however you’re accessing the podcast.  Coming up today we have Judy Umlas making her triumphant return.  But before we get to that, let’s bring in the producer and co-host of the podcast, Ty Kiisel, Director of Content Marketing at  It’s good to have you here.

Ty Kiisel:  Glad to be here.  We get to talk to one of my favorite people today.  It’s going to be a fun conversation.

Patrick Wiscombe:  Let’s get started.  Judy Umlas is the Senior Vice President, author, and trainer at the International Institute for Learning.  She’s also published a fair number of books.

Ty Kiisel:  Judy writes about a lot of leadership type topics.  One of the things that most resonates with me is her book, The Power of Acknowledgement.  It was incredible.  It taught me how acknowledging people for what they are generally, rather than achievements, was very valuable in the work place.  I’ve tried to incorporate that with the people I oversee.  It’s been a great experience.  She also wrote a more recent book about this with our kids.

Judy Umlas:  Thank you so much Ty.  I’m going to embarrass you a little because I’ve been interviewed by many reporters, writers, radio hosts, and I don’t know that I’ve experienced anybody who gets this message as deeply as you do.  So I’m very grateful for the resonance this message has with you.  I really feel that it’s so contagious and so spreadable.  It’s really wonderful to have partners like you and Patrick to get the word out.  The Power of Acknowledgement was published in 2006.  I’ll never forget when we presented the book to a Senior Executive at Microsoft.  He looked at the book, then looked at me and said, “This book has changed my life.”  I said, “This is a new book.”  He said, “Just the title made me think of 5 people I need to acknowledge and I’ll do it.”  So just the conversations about the book are so powerful.  This message really makes a difference.

Ty:  I absolutely agree.  Before I met you, I thought recognizing achievement and accomplishment was my role.  Anything vague or not specific was not the way I should go.   Last week we talked about mission driven businesses.  I think we can continue that conversation by how we approach this power of acknowledgement.  I want to start off by asking should creating an environment where people feel valued and appreciated be part of the mission?

Judy:  Absolutely.  I do one and two day training and I deliver courses to executive leaders all over the world.  We look at their mission statements and nowhere does it say that we intend to establish a culture of appreciation where people come to work every day and know they are valued and the contribution is appreciated.  The number one reason good people leave good jobs is they don’t experience acknowledgement or appreciation.  I’m glad you mentioned the difference between acknowledgement and recognition.  For some reason or another, that is usually the biggest breakthrough people have.   When I trained US military officers at West Point, they all said that they get their medals and stripes and they don’t need that other stuff.  But the validation of who you are as a human being and the contribution you make was never recognized.  They came away saying, “When I go into the battlefield, I’m going to make sure my soldiers know how appreciated they are for their sacrifice and what they’re doing for their country.”  That’s what people really take away.

Ty:  I think my favorite example of the difference is the general who said, “I get recognized all the time, but I don’t get acknowledged.”  I think that’s when it clicked for me.  If your people understood their value exceeds the job role they have, I think we would have happier employees.

Judy:  Without a doubt, we would.  It’s become a personal mission for me because it has instant impact.  I’ve seen it over and over again.   Let me share a story that happened a couple of weeks ago.  I was doing virtual training for 450 managers of a large company.   Everybody received the e-book, Grateful Leadership:  Using the Power of Acknowledgement to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results.  One of the students in the class texted, “I read the book this morning and it changed the way I heard this wonderful customer service person that I had to call to get my password reset.”  So he was so grateful and after reading the book, he decided to write a note to her supervisor.  He sent the email and during the class he got a response.  This is what he wrote, “Dear NSC,  I did not expect to hear such an eager, enthusiastic voice speaking on the other end of the line.  While the password setting may have been Dorothy’s thousandth, it was my first.  With a joyful heart, I could hear her smile through the phone.  Dorothy is outstanding and a joy to speak with.”  So he gets an email back from the Supervisor of Customer Relations. “Wow.  What a great testimonial you gave to Dorothy’s customer service skills.  I’m so pleased you took the time to write about your experience.  There is nothing better than being appreciated and you made Dorothy’s day.  I’ll make sure to share your comments with others here.  Be sure to have a safe day.”   So when this man’s manager heard this, he sent Dorothy two dozen roses.  But wait, there’s more.  Dorothy then writes back and says that she never expected how this has spiraled.  She goes on to say that since this happened, she compliments other customer service people she has to call.  It just goes on and on from this one little email that took two minutes to write.

Ty:  It’s kind of like paying it forward.

Judy:  Yes.  Exactly.  That’s why I feel like the acknowledgement Fairy Godmother.  I go around tapping people on the heads with my magic wand and they become proponents.

Ty:  I think every company wants to create a positive environment.  At Lendio, we have 4 or 5 core values that we talk about on a regular basis.  One of them is, “Lendio is it’s peeps.”  Meaning it’s people.  We want to create a place where people are happy to come into the office and they’re excited to work with their co-workers.  I see that as an important part of our corporate values.  How does this apply to the dry cleaner down the street with 5 employees?  They may have a mission in mind but it’s not articulated.  How do you make it more than just the poster on the wall?

Judy:  I believe it applies to everyone, even people who are consultants and are a company of one.  There’s a whole group of people out there called customers and vendors who would be thrilled to receive acknowledgement in any form.  So whether it’s one or one thousand, its doesn’t matter.  I sincerely believe that it’s language that makes this real.   Speak it, talk it, have a conversation about it.  I have a poster called The 5 C’s of acknowledgement.  Put that poster up on the wall.  Anybody can email me if they’d like a copy.  Then you read it every day to remind yourself.  I call it the credit card to happiness.  So for a small business, you want to be sure everybody feels appreciated and know they make an important contribution.  Keep acting on that.  Conversation should be a regular, ongoing step.

Ty:  Most business leaders think they have a decent culture.  I’ve even worked in places where they thought it was decent, but it wasn’t.

Judy: The simplest way to find out what your culture is, is to ask your people.  Make sure that it’s safe for them to give you a real response.  If it really is safe, they will tell you.   Then you have to be willing to really listen.  Just the conversation is so empowering.  I love this Steven Covey quote, “You are the yeast that can leaven an entire loaf.”

Ty:  If you have a struggling culture and you recognize that, how do you start to change that?  What are the first steps?

Judy:  The first step is a true willingness to change.  It starts with the willingness and desire to change.  Send them to me, I’d be happy to talk to anybody.  Some people think they are, and they’re really not.  Some people think they’re not, and they really are.  If you’re struggling, read one of my three books.  It’s something people know they should do, but they have not given themselves permission to do it.  Why?  Because they’re afraid to do it.  They don’t want to appear soft.  If it’s sincere, people will receive it.

Ty:  I spend so much time with the people I work with, I want a good environment.  What do you say to business leaders who are looking for a more concrete reason to do this?  Does this impact employee performance?

Judy:  It definitely has an impact on performance and that has been documented by many studies.  They find that people who are engaged in their businesses perform at a much higher level.  I believe the key to engagement is feeling appreciated and valued.

Ty:  Before we close, I shared your book with my wife.  She loved it.  I am a reasonably new grandfather and I’m going to go and get, The Power of Acknowledgement for Kids and share it with my son and his wife.  Where can we find the book?

Judy:  The best way to get it is on our website,  They can buy any of the 3 books there with a 20% discount if they use the code Grateful2013.  That way we can be in contact with people and send them updates, if they want them, as new things happen.

Ty:  Thanks Judy.  It’s been a pleasure to speak to you again.  I always feel better after we talk.  This has been an exciting and important thing.  It’s really a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.  So thanks again.

Judy:  My pleasure Ty and Patrick.  Thank you.

Patrick:  We’ll go ahead and wrap up today’s edition of The Business Fuel Podcast.  Our thanks to our guest, Judy Umlas.  She’s the author of, The Power of Acknowledgement.  Ty Kiisel, I forgot to ask you at the beginning of the podcast, what’s your article on this week?

Ty:  Community banks are such an important part of the small business ecosystem.  So I’m profiling a community bank, that has one branch, here in Salt Lake City.  I write about the things they do that are vastly different than others.  It’s a great example.

Patrick:  You can see all of Ty’s stuff on  Just search on his name, Ty Kiisel.  You can also see all the stuff he publishes on and  So for Judy Umlas, Ty Kiisel, I’m Patrick Wiscombe.  Thanks for listening.  We’ll talk to you next week.

Bringing you interviews with top business professionals and business financing tips to help fuel your American dream.  This has been the Business Fuel podcast, with your hosts, Ty Kiisel and Patrick Wiscombe, heard exclusively on



Ty Kiisel

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.