Recently, I was enjoying a conversation with Tim Hull, one of our business development advisors at Violand Management Associates. He was relating a story about a personal hunting experience when he was 16 years old.

Tim is a classic outdoorsman. Calling Tim a hunting zealot is an understatement. With him, hunting borders on a religious experience. While I am not a hunter, it would be impossible to overlook the deeper significance in the story he told me.

Tim told me of an early hunting experience he had with his Uncle Billy, who was showing him some of the finer points of deer hunting. On this particular day, Tim had been successful in harvesting a good-sized buck with which his uncle had encountered the previous day.

Rather than being put off by Tim’s bagging of “his” buck, his uncle gave Tim a congratulatory kiss on the cheek as an expression of his approval of Tim’s success.

This experience had such a profound emotional effect, and left such a positive impression on Tim, that he was relating it to me nearly two decades later. The warm relationship that existed between an uncle and nephew was never in question in Tim’s story, but his uncle’s unexpected expression of congratulations is what left an indelible impression. 

Positive impacts

Every day, as business owners and managers, we have the opportunity to have a similar effect on the people in our companies. Although there are employment laws and social protocols that may prohibit us from giving people a literal kiss on the cheek at work, there are lots of other ways we can achieve the same result.

A kiss on the cheek in business can take a lot of different forms. It can be as fundamental as thanking someone for doing a good job or recognizing them in front of the group for a completed project. But if it’s so simple to carry out and can have such a positive effect on the recipient, why do so many of us fail to do so? 

I feel one of the reasons is because of the strings we’re afraid will accompany the gesture. We’re afraid if we let people know how well we think they’re doing, they’ll automatically come to us asking for a raise or for special favors. 

Sometimes we fear people will mysteriously decide to stop trying so hard. How crazy is that? Study after study has shown that receiving recognition is a key factor in employee motivation. So what better way to recognize someone than with an emotional kiss on the cheek? 

Some fear that expressing strong emotions leaves them vulnerable to the very people they’re leading. It’s as if kissing them on the cheek means they can’t also kick them in the pants when that’s what’s needed.

It’s important to remember that being vulnerable is what makes us human and allows people to relate to us. It’s one of the things that make us stronger leaders in our businesses. 

Is it time to let someone in your organization know how much you appreciate them, and how pleased you are with the contributions they’re making to your company?

If so, maybe it’s time to give them a figurative kiss on the cheek. Who knows, maybe 20 years from now they’ll be telling their friends about the positive impact you had on them.

Chuck Violand understands the unique challenges of small businesses, having owned a commercial cleaning and water damage mitigation company for 26 years. He founded Violand Management Associates (VMA) in 1988 as a consulting, teaching and training resource for owners of small businesses. To learn more about VMA's services and programs, visit or call (330) 966-0700.