Genuine appreciation goes a long way. Here's a guide to get the most out of a brief note, no matter who you're thanking.
The other day I was given the challenge to recognize 30 people by writing each one of them a note, which got me thinking about the amazing implications of recognizing employee's contributions. It shows you are paying attention. It shows you care. It makes people feel valued. And as business guru Tom Peters notes, "People don't forget kindness."
The analytical readers among you are already thinking this article is entirely too touchy-feely, so let me add that there is also a self-serving aspect of thanking people. When you recognize the contributions of others, you reinforce the kind of behavior you want to see again. People who feel their efforts are noticed, and their work makes a difference, are more likely to go the extra mile in the future. Leadership is about empowering others to realize their own abilities. Communicate your belief in your people, and watch them rise to meet your expectations.
Some of you are now thinking, 'How am I supposed to find the time to write personal notes when I have [insert important obligations]?' Well, I can show you how to thank someone appropriately in eight words or fewer. You can do that. Also, you don't want to be that boss who has her assistant order flowers once a year on each employee's birthday. Save your money. Everybody knows someone else did it for you.
When you thank your employees, be prompt. Recognize the kind of effort you want to see again soon. And be spontaneous. Don't wait for a holiday or company-wide event to thank your employees. Of course, be specific, too.
Our research at Emergenetics indicates that most employees would enjoy a personal thank-you note, but they want it customized to them. For example, to say, 'You're doing a good job,' is fine for a "social" thinker, but a "structural" thinker doesn't trust you unless you add a specific task he has accomplished.
So how can you most effectively thank and recognize your employees, based on their individual personalities and traits?
Here are 10 tips, according to brain research:
1. People who are at the gregarious end of the "expressiveness" spectrum use their gift of gab as a work asset. You might write to them: 'I celebrate how you share your enthusiasm,' or 'Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open.'
2. People who are on the quieter end of the "expressiveness" spectrum appreciate one-on-one contact with you. You could say: 'Mary, I prize your well-considered solutions,' or 'I appreciate your respectful attitude toward everyone.'
3. Those employees who are forceful in terms of "assertiveness" especially appreciate the prompt response from you. You could let them know: 'Thank you for keeping the momentum going!' or 'I appreciate your decisive action.'
4. But those who are more easygoing when it comes to "assertiveness" want everyone to get along. You might say: 'Thank you for helping to keep the peace,' or, 'I appreciate your amiability more than you know.'
5. When it comes to "flexibility," staffers who are change-seekers don't get flustered easily. You might write: 'I recognize your easy resilience' or 'Thanks for how you handled [difficult client].'
6. On the other end of the "flexibility" spectrum is people who are focused and have strong opinions. You might jot down: 'I depend on your support,' or 'I honor you for your convictions.'
7. Analytical thinkers value intelligence and individual, rather than team, recognition. To them, you might note: 'I appreciate your penetrating questions,' or 'I respect the depth of your knowledge.'
8. Structural-minded folks want to hear details. You could let them know: 'Thank you for transferring all that data perfectly,' or 'You always meet your deadlines--impressive!'
9. Since social thinkers want to please you, you ought to write them: 'I am so grateful for your teambuilding skills,' or, 'I couldn't have done it without you.'
10. Those on your team who are conceptual by nature want to feel unique. You could let them know: 'Your solution to the XYZ problem was stunning,' or 'I treasure your creative long-term views.'
The power of sincere thanks cannot be overestimated. And when you become a master of employee recognition, you can start thanking your clients, too!
Note: If you have questions you would like Dr. Browning to address, please include them in the comments section.
GEIL BROWNING is founder of Emergenetics International, an organizational development firm in the U.S., Singapore, and the Netherlands. She co-created the Emergenetics Profile, a psychometric thinking and behavioral workplace assessment. @Emergenetics_