By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), a Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change.
Scott had worked at the same organization for 35 years and the day he retired he cleared off his desk, emptied out his workplace, handed in his access cards and keys, and walked out with a box containing just a few items. They consisted of a picture of his family, a picture of his first day on the job, his personal journal, and a handwritten thank you card he had received from the CEO 15 years before.
Why did Scott keep the card? When I asked him, he struggled to put it into words, he simply said that the card meant a lot to him and it was something he felt proud of. This example illustrates the power of giving thanks!
Attitude of Gratitude
Growing up my mother reinforced in me the power that can come when you have an attitude of gratitude. Not a week would go by that I wouldn't see her at her desk writing handwritten thank you cards.
We would have what we called, "Family Home Evenings," where she would teach my siblings and I about the importance of writing thank you cards and then assign us to write five each. She worked hard to teach us an attitude of gratitude. This is also an attitude that can have a powerful impact in our organizations and drive employee engagement.
Appreciated Employees = Engaged Employees
In fact, as reported by the Harvard Business Review in 2012 the American Psychological Association surveyed 1,700 employees and found out that more than half were intending to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated.
Charles Schwab said this about growing his organization and his people, "The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement." As leaders, we can oftentimes be moving so quick that we don't stop to say, "thank you," and when we fail to give thanks we fail to acknowledge, uplift, and appreciate those around us.
A simple thanks can make an employee's day and drive powerful business results.
3 Ways to Give More Impactful Thanks
1. Make It Specific
Don't just give thanks for thanks sake, but make the thanks specific to what action they did, what result they accomplished, or what behavior they exemplified that you appreciated.
Naturally, you aren't probably going to thank someone for coming to work on time, that is an expectation, but if someone does go above and beyond to help deliver a specific result, that is definitely something you would want to praise.
You can use gratitude strategically as you give thanks for the behaviors and results you want people to deliver time and time again.
2. Make it meaningful, not necessarily monetary
One of the traps we can fall into as leaders is feeling that we need to give a financial, monetary incentive, or bonus anytime someone does something good. While monetary thanks is appropriate occasionally, thanks in general is also very impactful as people feel noticed and appreciated.
You can make it meaningful by how you deliver thanks, which can range from delivering it in a personal meeting, in a phone call, in a handwritten note, or in a public email or meeting, etc.
3. Be consistent, set aside "thankful time" every week
Employees will expect that a leader will give thanks and praise when a significant accomplishment, project, sale, or result is delivered--what they won't expect is when thanks is given along the way at "unexpected" intervals.
This is where leaders can create a powerful experience by being consistent and creating a different experience for their employees. Some of the most impactful leaders I have met, and yes, this includes my mother, set aside time every week for a few minutes where they sit down and write out thank you cards or send emails to those who have impacted them that week.
As leaders give specific, meaningful, and consistent thanks to their employees, loyalty will go up, results will improve, and more importantly, lives will be impacted--lives like Scott who I don't think will ever throw away the thank you card he received years ago.
Who do you need to reach out to and thank today?