Thank-you notes go a long way toward strengthening business relationships, particularly between business leaders and lower-level workers. Subsequently, good managers and executives make it a point to send quick messages of gratitude to employees for things like meeting quotas or closing a deal. But exceptional leaders recognize that there are plenty of other times to communicate appreciation that have nothing to do with measurable objectives. These are some of the best reasons to express your thanks.

1. Your employee serves as a mentor or is a mentee.

Employees who mentor pass along critical skills, knowledge, and insights that prepare the next generation within your company to succeed. Thus they set the stage for future company stability and the fruition of your long-term vision. At the same time, mentees deserve some kudos for stepping out of their comfort zone, recognizing they can improve and being willing to learn.

2. Your employee handles a crisis well.

When a worker successfully deals with a big issue within your business, she helps everyone else keep a cool head. By grounding others in this way, she has ensure that the focus stays high and productivity doesn't lax. Such workers send the message to try rather than give up.

3. Your employee volunteers.

Here, you're really saying thank you that your worker is more than just another soldier following orders--he's looking at problems or opportunities and going beyond the standard. That often helps your company experiment, stay flexible, and prepare for challenges. If the volunteering is external, you also can say thank you to an employee for representing your business through the volunteer work.

4. Your employee is experiencing personal difficulties.

When trouble strikes, it's all too easy to lose focus and lapse into self-pity. Saying thank you reminds your worker that she's not just an isolated number and that you want her to succeed. Supplying that support offers much needed hope.

5. Your employee demonstrates an exceptional skill or personality trait.

It doesn't matter if the skill or trait relates to his work. The point is to show your worker that you see the talent and uniqueness he has, and that you're satisfied with him for being the person he is. Pointing out his individuality can give this person the courage to try all kinds of new things. Saying thank you also helps develop a culture of openness and diversity acceptance, which can support heightened creativity and cohesion within your team.

How to compose the perfect thank you

Once you've identified someone who deserves some warm words, it's important to take the right approach, both for the sake of efficiency and the acceptance of the message as sincere. These tips will get you started.

  • Write your note by hand. Your worker already is swamped with enough email and will appreciate the little extra effort it takes to use traditional script. Handwritten notes also make wonderful mementos.
  • Keep the message short. One paragraph is plenty. Just summarize what the worker did and why you are so grateful.
  • Use a formal greeting and close.
  • Start your main paragraph with the thanks, and then add details as appropriate.
  • Point to the future as you wrap the note up, such as "I look forward to starting our new project on Monday!"
  • Reiterate your gratitude prior to the close, such as "Again, I'm thrilled that you ..."

More than money, plaques, or even promotions, people want to feel valued. Your written words can ensure they do. So go observe right now. Take a moment to reflect. The odds are there's someone on your team who can benefit today from this small but powerful gesture of kindness.