I have a question I want you to answer honestly. When was the last time you said “Thank you.” Now, I don’t mean the nonchalant “thank you” you give to someone. I mean a sincere, heartfelt “thank you.” When was the last time you made an earnest gesture of gratitude toward someone? “Thank you” is a statement we take for granted and say in a way that has little meaning. Gratitude should be something that is true and heartfelt, not something we say off the cuff.
Our society uses the words “thank you” as a sign of respect toward an action done or a service provided. I’m not saying this is bad, but when is the last time we showed gratitude for others? When was the last time you walked up to an employee, a teammate, your boss, your spouse, or even your children and said, “Thank you”? Let me pause here and provide more context. Don’t just say “Thank you”, otherwise you run the same problem that we already have; it becomes meaningless. Express WHAT you are thankful for. For example, “Thank you for being present and visible at work.”
“Why on earth would I ever want to be that awkward?” Hey, great question. It’s only awkward because it’s not natural. When we do something unnatural, it feels awkward, and we tend to be more self conscious. However, we need to remember that leadership is not about us. It’s not about how we feel, it’s about how we make those around us feel. Showing sincere gratitude is one way to create a work environment that people feel valued and happy to be in. Taking that small, awkward step of thanking someone for something specific opens the door for positive relationships within the company or organization.
Something that needs to be done away with is cards. Thank you cards don’t mean much, especially when they have a coined phrase or copied generic statement. This does not show that the company or organization truly cares about their employees. Why? Because everyone gets the same card with the same message and nothing is personalized. If you are a CEO, manager, team leader, or whatever high title you hold, get out of the office, get out from behind your desk, and go visit and talk with those you lead. Show them appreciation that is sincere and real, not something you had your secretary put together.
Always remember, if it wasn’t for the people you lead, you wouldn’t be in the position you are in. It is the hard work and dedication of the people below you that gives you the opportunity to be in the position you are in. I would wager that anyone who holds a high title didn’t just fall into that position, but rather worked their way to get there. If you are one of those people who worked to earn the title that you have, never forget that you were once the person you are now leading. The people who are putting in the time, effort, and hard work to produce the numbers that are needed for the company or organization need to know they are appreciated, and not in a distant, generic way. These people need to hear you say “Thank you” on a personal, real, sincere level.
“But isn’t that what I do when we have company meetings, and I thank everyone for their hard work?” Not at all. There is a major difference between thanking a group of people from behind the podium, and personally thanking John or Joann who is working hard at their station, their desk, or on their route. When it is personal, it means more, and we must never forget that leadership is not about titles, but about one life influencing another.
I encourage you to find yourself with less time behind your desk and more time on the floor with your people. Observe, encourage, and most importantly, show each individual personal gratitude. Be specific in what you are thanking them for. Get to know your people. You might be surprised by the life stories that are working hard for you to have the title you do. People want to hear that they are appreciated, and not in some generic statement. People want to know that they, personally, are seen and matter to the company or organization for which they work.