Can you improve on something as simple as a thank you? It turns out you can. I learned three lessons on how to thank people from  Chester Elton--who said "I love you in life is thank you at work," at the MG100 Coaches talk I recently attended--which have already made me better at expressing  gratitude

Elton is the author of the New York Times bestselling book,  The Carrot Principle, about inspiring people with a carrot, not a stick. In fact, carrots have become a symbol for Elton who always wears something orange and throws stuffed carrots to his audiences when he gives one of his high impact talks. 

Elton's lessons on how to improve something as simple as saying thank you are profound and, according to him, will help you "lower employee turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and higher worker engagement levels" based on 850,000 people he surveyed for his books.

Here are three lessons that will improve your giving thanks:

1. Specificity is key.

This one really helped me. I used to say thank you but didn't always say why I was thanking someone. Elton's first lesson is to be specific. It is important to say exactly what someone did that you are grateful for when you thank them. 

2. Don't delay it.

Elton says, "Gratitude doesn't age well." Next time you're grateful to someone, say it out loud. Email them a thank you note. Do it now. And don't forget to say why (lesson 1).

3. Say thank you often.

Elton has a formula. It is 5:1. Five compliments to one criticism. Compliment and say thank you much more than you criticize people.

Now that you know how to give thanks, who to thank? Here are four groups you can start with:

Thank people who are good to you.

Marshall Goldsmith, executive leadership coach and founder of MG100 Coaches, tells the story of how when faced with mortal danger (his airplane's landing gear didn't open up) the one thing he regretted was not thanking people enough for being good to him. He survived, and after thanking the pilot and the crew, the first thing he did that night was to write 50 thank you notes. 

Thank your heroes.

Your heroes are the people who inspire you, who have qualities you want to emulate. They represent your values. Think for a moment about your heroes--high school teacher who made you love writing, your aunt who was interested in everyone she met and showed you there's something valuable in each person, your mentor who offered help when you didn't know how to ask for it. Write them a note and say thank you, you're my hero. And, once again, don't forget to say why.

Thank people behind-the-scenes.

The waiter who made your client dinner a great experience. The intern who arrived at 7a.m. to set up the workshop space. The model-maker who made the prototype just so. There are hidden people behind-the-scenes who make you and your experiences successful. Thank them. 

Thank your family.

As I was writing this post, I thought, do I thank my family enough? Not enough. I tell them I love them all the time, but I don't thank them and say why often enough. Today I will start with my family. 

Thank you dear reader for reading my post.