COVINGTON - You might think the annual meeting for a chamber of commerce would be a rather formal and staid event, but the dinner hosted by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night proved otherwise.
Throughout the evening, attendants held hands, gave each other high-fives and caught tennis balls pitched by the keynote speaker.
Dr. Earl Suttle, a motivational speaker, had the crowd laughing and frequently getting out of their seats to interact while he preached his message of enthusiasm, personal growth and gratitude.
Early on, Suttle instructed everyone to find six people in the room, give each one a high-five and say, "You've got the right thing going on, uh-huh."
Another task? Look at the person next to you and say, "I'm glad to be here tonight, even though I have to sit by you."
"One of the greatest things you can do is have a sense of humor," Suttle said.
Employees find bosses with a good sense of humor more approachable, and encouraging laughter at the workplace builds camaraderie, he said.
Another underused team-building exercise is celebration, he said. Suttle suggested employers hold a monthly celebration to give employees a chance to share their customer service stories.
He also suggested bosses hand out "Mistake of the Month" awards to encourage employees to take risks.
"You want to start rewarding and recognizing people for trying new things. How can you grow unless you try new things? How can you grow if employees are afraid to use their creativity?" he asked.
Suttle is the founder and CEO of Three E Corporation, an international training company based in Atlanta that specializes in working with businesses and organizations to increase their profits and productivity through employment development. He gives more than 100 presentations a year in America and South Africa.
He has conducted keynote addresses and seminars for many corporations such as AFLAC Insurance, AT&T, Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company and American Express and is a consultant to the National Basketball Association and National Football League.
He and his wife, Dr. Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, who started the first TV audience talk show in South Africa, have been featured on CNN and in Ebony and InStyle magazines.
But for all his accomplishments, Suttle said he's learned the hard way - through a diagnosis of diabetes and marital problems - that personal success trumps the professional variety.
"Work harder on yourself than you do on your job," he said. "If you work hard on your job, you're probably going to earn a pretty good living. If you work hard on yourself, you're going to earn a fortune.
"All your success on the job cannot compensate for a lack of success in your home life," he added. "On your journey to success, take your family with you, don't leave them behind."
Suttle said personal improvement will transfer to the job.
"Your growth determines your company's growth," he said.
Suttle recommended listening to inspiring CDs and audiobooks while driving and taking time to learn what he called the "greatest skill" - personal reflection.
"Ask, are my present skills taking me where I need to go? If not, start hanging around people that are bigger, faster, smarter and brighter than you. Ask, how am I doing spiritually, socially, intellectually and physically?"
Another important tool for self-improvement, and a cure to a negative attitude, is making a gratitude list, Suttle said.
"When you wake up the morning, do you say, 'Good morning, Lord,' or 'Good Lord, it's morning?" he asked.
"With sincerity, give praise, recognition, compliments and love to as many people as you can every single day," he said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.