Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You’re never above it

An unexpected package arrived in the mail. I recognized the return address, but was not expecting anything. With my typical curiosity, I tore open the padded envelope to find a nice note attached to Tom Lydon’s new book, “The ETF Trend Following Playbook.”

Tom is a good friend, hoops buddy and well-known expert in the financial planning world. Earlier in the year, Tom asked me if I would review his manuscript and give him comments and insights. I was glad to help and certainly did not expect to be thanked in any meaningful way. So, was I surprised to find a full paragraph in the acknowledgements thanking me for my time and expertise.

This made me think about the power of a “thank you” and the fact that it can be delivered in any direction. Convention has told us that bosses thank team members. This is a very limiting view. Teammates should equally thank peers and superiors. The act of remembering to take the time to thank someone when they least expect it has powerful impact.

When have you thanked the unexpected with amazing results?


Nathan Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly Siméus said...

Dear John,

I love your question and commentary.

I think a sincere "please" and "thank you" are always appreciated by the recipients, regardless of level. Senior executives probably get the least amount of "thank you's", and perhaps need the feedback the most.

And I think this gesture should be done without any expectations by the one who gives thanks from the one being thanked.

Just do it because you mean it from the heart and expect nothing in return.

The universe will always reciprocate in due time.



Tricia Golden said...

As a person who has worked in the healthcare field, which at many times can be a considered a 'thankless job', I try to make it a point to thank someone no matter how large or small the deed. I know that when someone says those words to me, it sends a message that it was worth it even more and puts you in a good mood. Now if only it were that easy for some.

I recall a time when I thanked an employee for putting in the extra effort and after I noticed that their performance had increased and they were enjoying the job even more. It is all about acknowledgement. If you put an interest in someone's work or actions (even by just saying thank you and meaning it) you will get more amazing results......

Michael Hortiatis said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Additionally, we could be honest and fair, more sharing and a little less greedy.
I was amazed recently as to how our Senators "sold" their vote for the Healthcare Bill..... enough said!

Michael Hortiatis said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Additionally, we could be honest and fair, more sharing and a little less greedy.
I was amazed recently as to how our Senators "sold" their vote for the Healthcare Bill..... enough said!

Kellie Auld said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It's always nice to be acknowledged, isn't it? And, as Tricia pointed out; it's amazing how a heartfelt thank you can motivate.

David Schneider said...

There are "Thank You"'s and there are "THANK YOU"'s. To be thanked in a public and permanent way - a full paragraph - is a THANK YOU.

There are leaders that will not praise team members for contributions in front of the rest of the team - in front of the individual's peers, under the idea that to put the spotlight on that "player" is unfair to the rest of the team. These leaders will not do it, no matter how important the contribution - and the timing of the contribution is. That is misguided. The private 'thank you' - no matter how sincere - is discounted when in private. Only someone with incredible self-worth can really be "nourished" by a private "thank you" for an extraordinary performance.

People get emotional and motivational nourishment from a public "THANK YOU" for outstanding contributions. Their peers add additional support and power to that public thank you. The contribution is seen as an example of something to reach for. If it is done in a way with some "stick" to it - where the public "THANK YOU" is repeated - reported in a company news letter, the impact carry morale momentum.

I gave a public "Thank You" to someone just last week - as they figured out how to "recover" a missing freight load - and get a driver home for Christmas. I did not have to - but I did. But the effort needed to be recognized to inspire others to find a similar solution.

And as leaders - isn't that what we are to do - inspire?


Kimberly Siméus said...

I agree Kellie. Dottie Gandy has written a book,"30 Days to a Happy Employee", which substantiates daily thank you's/recognition/validation of the positive attributes of one's good work will lead to a higher level of performance. A great woman and a good read.

Jay Hardjadinata said...

Hello John,

I did an informal research a while ago to find that most employees are looking for an acknowledgment from their bosses.

A little thank you or positive feedback for doing a great job goes a long way when is done sincerely. In most employees point of view, they think that boss only come to see them when things go bad.

Mark Gavoor said...

People appreciate being thanked. Being polite, congratulating, and thanking people when appropriate is a basic lesson taught by our mother's when we were children. It is a lesson and practice easily overlooked and neglected. The power is evident when practiced. People feel better about themselves, about the person thanking them, and makes both closer. People being closer and appreciating each other is so very important in this age of collaboration and teamwork.

I send hand written notes on personalized stationary which is not very expensive. In this age of e-mail, texting, and twittering, a handwritten note is warmer and generally well received.

Great discussion and timed to influence the setting of NYers resolutions.

Thanks to all,

Ron Tetreault said...

As I have been taught (and try my best to practice), you praise in public and criticize in private.

Kellie Auld said...

Thanks for the recommended read Kim - I'll look for it (being a bit of a book hound). Also, Jay - I completely agree with what you're saying in terms of whenever the boss comes by, employees think it's to deliver bad news. Try being in HR and going around...you can see the whispering. I used to work in a multi-branch organization and I would go around just to say hello. People didn't believe it at first; but you'd be amazed at what you can learn by doing so. When I worked in manufacturing, I'd also go out on the floor to work with the front line staff - my belief was that if I could see how they interacted and what their duties actually were, I could recruit and hire more effectively. The employees seemed to really appreciate it; and I learned to appreciate what they did as well. It was a win/win in my opinioin.

Anthony said...

I have always tried to be a thank you leader. Even in the Army where commanders and leaders are not obliged to thank their teams, i tried to do it regularly so they knew that I did not take for granted that while they were required to follow orders, I appreciated their execution.

That being said I am working in an environment of selfish old time union employees that could care less if you thank them, just keep the OT coming and don't make me have to think. I have a good team, but the fact is that I do more for them than I should because they simply have been "trained" over the years to not think for themselves in the plant I work in. We are talking about 40 years of being catered to. THAT does not stop me from thanking my team every day for their work. The point for me, is tjhat regardless of what they think, they are appreciated by me. I don't say it for the response, I say it so they know.....that's all.

The other day my boss sent me a dinner for 2 Thank You gift for work on a critical generator we shipped. My first response was that I did't deserve it because all I did was steer the ship, my team did the actual work on the re-build. I did, however, thank him for the vote of confidence that he on some level valued my presence and direction on the job. THAT for me was worth more than the actual dinner, and that is what motivates me.

An saying I used to share with my peers in the Army when I was in command and on the staff was that our job as the staff and commanders was to make the boss successful. His success is our success.

Scott Windt said...

As part of an employee involvement team we studied how employees like to be recognized. The results were surprising in that ~50% preferred private praise over public praise. I believe this lends itself to people just want to be thanked and acknowledged for doing a good job.

When I took on my last assignment one of the first things I asked was budget for rewards and recognitions. In addition, we need to ensure that these R&R prigrams remain budgeted.

I typically walk around with spot awards and on a routine basis make it a point to stop by someone's office that has performed well on a task to say thank you and provide them with an award on the spot. I find this works extremely well as this is rarely done. For them it provides a sense of accomplishment, for me it feels good helping others and it provides me goodwill with him/her. A bonus is the residual goodwill and cooperation I receive from other people that know about it.

While I agree a public acknowledgement has its merits, all to often I see senior leaders mis-spell, mispronounce or inadequately informed about the accomplishment to appropriately speak to it. So I encourage us all to pay attention to the details as the intended results will be greater. It is important when providing the thank you to be specific and tangible as to why they are receiving it.

Remember when on the receiving end, do not deny yourself or the person presenting the "Thank you " the satisfaction and/or gratifiication of the acknowledgement. TOUT--Thank you, I Owe this award to....I will Use this to....Thank you.


Tom Traub said...

I am in the final stages of upgrading my graduate Project Management course to be taught in Kosovo for RIT. One of my main themes for this course is leadership and John hits it out of the park with his comment on performance management techniques by just saying thank you. World Class organizations realize Leadership comes in both formal authority positions and team members in informal leadership roles.

Johannes (Hans) Verboon said...

Thanks for sharing. BTW what is 'EFT Trend Following'?

Robert Freimuth, Ph.D said...

Hi Tom,

I have had some extraordinary reactions from the simplicity of a personal handwritten note. It seems technology (email, Twitter, Facebook) has created forms of communication that are not permanent and are somewhat ubiquitous. The handwritten note is different and, when delivered personally, becomes a conduit for a larger discussion on why a particular act is valued.

I think it is also important to remember the reason we recognize others. Stephen Covey reminds us that love is a verb. Rather than being a feeling we get when others treat us with kindness, love is what we give. Similarly, we should give recognition to others unconditionally rather than part of what we should do as leaders. We shouldn't expect a quid pro quo. When we do it because of our genuine appreciation for job well done, we are on the right track. As you have aptly noted, leadership is a verb.

Anonymous said...


Permit me to thank YOU - for all the insightful posts. I really do enjoy reading them.

As I got this latest update e-mail, and saw there would be another of your topics - I determined to send this note. I honestly had not considered that the topic would be related to what I had determined to do.

Life is full of wonderful surprises ... isn't it?

Thanks again!

Bonnie Coe said...

Great reminder! And a good tone to set for the new year. Thank you.

Jeffrey S. Harrison said...

Two little words that mean so much. Nice job! Happy New Year!

Lisa Moats said...

"Convention has told us that bosses thank team members. This is a very limiting view. Teammates should equally thank peers and superiors. The act of remembering to take the time to thank someone when they least expect it has powerful impact."

Regarding your quote above, the idea that bosses thank team members is not only a very limited view - it is very limited in practice. As is the same act among team members. The formality that surrounds the way this occurs in the corporate environment is squelching. It requires forms to be filled out and numbers to be crunched.

Despite having been awarded multiple key employee awards and a Bronze level Chairman's award in the corporate world, nothing pleased me more during a one year stint as a sales department admin (a big departure from my previous technical life in the IT world) than my boss yelling "thank you!" at me as I left every evening. I knew that he truly appreciated what I had contributed that day and how I had made his work day easier. While I agree that there should be more thanking going on in general, please don't belittle the need for bosses to thank their employees. If anything, there should be more genuine thanking going on in that regard than the kind that requires paperwork and certificates.

Patrick Riddle said...

.........it doesent cost anything, and it is easy to do and if well timed, can lift spirits and boost moral.............its an integral part of managing teams, peers and subordinates..........

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