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Do you write 9,200 birthday cards a year? 

Sheldon Yellen does

It’s a practice he picked up in 1985 when he was hired onto BELFOR Holdings, a disaster recovery and property restoration firm run by his brother-in-law. Yellen started the practice to get to know employees better and avoid fears of nepotism among employees as a result of his hiring. 

Today, over 30 years later, Yellen is still writing cards. Not just birthday cards either. He writes anniversary congratulations for married employees and get-well-soon cards for employees or employee family members that are unwell. 

Most executives would write off (pun intended) penning thousands upon thousands of cards to employees. After all, executives have busy enough schedules as it is. 

Or do they?

Yellen states that the practice is well worth it.

“When leaders forget about the human element, they’re holding back their companies and limiting the success of others… focusing only on profit and forgetting that a company’s most important asset is its people will ultimately stifle a company’s growth.”

Yellen’s claims that his hobby has culminated in a more compassionate, productive workforce aren’t unfounded either. 

We’ve all heard some variation of the phrase “employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses” before. But it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Employees leave jobs that don’t align with their skill-sets or professional goals. Who decides what skill-sets a role values or how it advances? Leaders. Not just any leader, but the entire chain of command – from executives down to managers. 

Leaders who customize roles to suit the strengths of employees have far better employee turnover and productivity rates than leaders who create generic ‘one size fits all’ positions. Employees who were able to use their unique strengths in a role found their work 31% more enjoyable than employees in less customized positions. Furthermore, leaders who create spaces where employees feel loved increase those productivity rates even further. 

More than ever, employees care about the values of their employers – and as a result, whether or not they feel valued as an employee. According to a recent survey, 86% of millennial workers would take a pay cut to work at a company that shared their missions or values. 

Despite 88% of employees desiring leaders who listen to employee concerns, only 60% of employees feel that their leaders have good listening skills. Additionally, only 51% of workers think their leaders own their mistakes. 

The result? Employee turnover. A lot of it. 71% of employees are currently looking for a new job at this very moment. Considering the average employee turnover costs businesses $15,000, that’s not exactly great news. 

In the context of these statistics, Yellen isn’t an executive who wastes time writing birthday cards. He’s a leader making an investment. Employees today are desperate for leadership that values them for their unique skills and personalities. Executives like Yellen, who can meet that desire, have a distinct advantage in retaining employees — and in attracting top talent to their enterprises. 

Still think writing 9,200 birthday cards a year is too much work?

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 What Is Tribal?


TRIBAL is a relationship and community building platform that helps leaders build strong, inspired teams.


TRIBAL uses strategic storytelling to enable and enhance meaningful relationships across all levels of your organization. By leveraging the inherent tribal nature and impactful stories your organization has, TRIBAL helps leaders shape a meaningful culture from the top down and bottom up. Studies show that a meaningful workplace leads to inspired employees who outperform all others.

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