Recently, I looked back at the people I’ve connected with during the past several years. Many had asked me for my professional opinion or requested a referral to someone I know. Others wanted my time, my skills, my money, or a piece of my soul (the last went unsatisfied).
Out of hundreds of people I helped, less than a third ever expressed their gratitude. Even fewer had surprised me later with an act of generosity.
On a positive note, I realized that the people who did express their gratitude or reciprocate with generosity are the folks I now respect the most. I suspect it’s no coincidence either that the quality and creativity of their work is also higher than average. They’re the people who immediately spring to mind when I have opportunities to share. They’re who I’ll carve out time for, even when my schedule is packed.
Let’s be clear, I don’t give help for the glory. Even so, in my professional life, a little gratitude and generosity goes a long way to influence what I think of a person—and whether I think of them at all.
Why gratitude and generosity matter for your personal brand
Gratitude and generosity are qualities that help people take note of and remember you. And, being noticed and remembered is essential to building your personal brand. A lack of gratitude and generosity can also make you memorable—but for all the wrong reasons.
Your gratitude and generosity toward others often matters more than your pedigree or accolades. Through gratitude and generosity, you show a commitment to holding yourself accountable to a higher personal standard.
Gratitude and generosity especially make a difference in the professional world, where those qualities are all too rare. A strong personal brand can expand your influence, open doors to new opportunities, and grow your professional network.
Let others know they are valued, and you’re also more likely to be valued in return. Be generous with others, and you’ll build good will. You’ll be associated with positive feelings and a general sense of awesomeness.
That is the essence of a building strong personal brand.
How to express gratitude and generosity to build your personal brand
Stop making excuses
Everyone is busy. Everyone has too much going on. You are not the busiest person in the world. If you have time to watch Netflix, you have time for gratitude and generosity.
In our rush to get things done, too often we finish what we’re working on and then move on. It’s time for that to stop. Make time for gratitude and generosity in everything you do.
Make them a priority and part of your process. If you’re a to-do list maker or rely on calendar reminders, use those tools so you don’t forget to be gracious and generous.
Say thank you
Thank yous are for the big things people do for you, and for the little things as well. People deserve your appreciation for the time they spend, for the effort they make, for whatever else they do to help you or to help those you care about.
This isn’t a call for the return of handwritten thank you notes (though my mother-in-law would be thrilled if that happened). You can express your gratitude in a few sentences or a quick 140-character tweet. Even a quick “Thx :)” is better than nothing.
Being heavy handed with your gratitude or generosity can scream “Beware! Hidden Agenda!” to the recipient. Worse, if you lay it on too thick, you can send out creepy vibes. Don’t do it if you’re only interested in calling attention to yourself. Do it because the person deserves your gratitude or generosity.
To avoid being ingratiating or tacky, let your gratitude be the focus. Mention why you’re thankful, just in case the person doesn’t remember or isn’t aware of the impact they had on you. Leave off anything extraneous—especially asking for another favor.
Buy the coffee
If you ask someone to “pick their brain” over coffee or a meal, you’d better be buying. They’ve shared their time and expertise with you. Picking up the check in return isn’t a burden.
Let your gesture of gratitude fit your personality and style, but don’t take it too far. A good rule of thumb is if you would make the gesture on Valentine’s Day, you’ve gotten too personal.
If the person works in government, follow ethical guidelines on gift-giving. If they say they can’t let you pay, they may be avoiding any possible perceptions of obligation or bribery. In that case, you’ve made the gesture and splitting the check is fine.
Recognize and reciprocate
If someone has been awesome to you, return the favor through recognition and reciprocation.
Give people credit for their ideas or for being the source of inspiration. Engage them in an online or offline conversation about their work, comment on their blog posts (hint hint), and share what they created with a note about why it inspired you (social media is great for this).
Recognizing someone’s gratitude or generosity can take many forms. Offer to be a reference, write a testimonial for their business, endorse them on LinkedIn, or nominate them for an award. Introduce generous and gracious people to each other, and you’ll help build a personal network worth being a part of.
How do you show your gratitude and generosity in your professional life? Share it in the comments.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and trainer. Find her on Twitter at @girardinl.
Very good article and reminder for all to look for opportunities to initiate a random act of kindness: no hidden agenda; no obligation. Thank you 🙂
You’re welcome, CB. Indeed, random acts of kindness are the best kind.
Hard to read with annoying video snips. I’ve noticed this is a trend. Please stop.
Thanks for the feedback, Anne, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Actually, the “video snips” (called GIFs) seem to increase many people’s engagement with the content.
I’ve even had people tell me they inspire a burst of laughter and joy—which we could all use more of in our day!
I agree, I could not read the article because the video snips were too annoying and hurt my eyes. One or two might have been OK but please do not plaster them every few lines.
I like the funny gifs! Please keep them.
I spend my whole day working on boring spreadsheets and long reports. I like my gov loop reading to be more vibrant and fun.
Excellent! I learned at a very early age how wonderful it felt to have someone genuinely express a thank you. Similarly, expressing it forward just seem to multiply the gesture – the recipient as well as I really felt good about it.
Gratitude and humor are my keys to success and have served my very well in ways that aren’t always so tangible for years. I thank my dad for the lesson and, at 94, he still shares so much that is so important to consider when being with others. Gracias, papi!
Albert, thank you for sharing the story of your father with us. He sounds like a wonderful man!
Wonderful thoughts – thank you! Sharing….
I do it by taking the time to recognize others contributions (small or large) and to pay attention to what is important to them. It encourages them to do more and to recognize the good in people and diminish the bad. Thank you is not just two words, it carries alot of weight with others. It’s a shame that some people think being grateful to others is a weakness when in fact it is a great strength to be vulnerable (show your true self) and practice gratitude.
Preach, Kim! I also believe we can gain strength through gratitude. My hope is that those who are grateful and generous in all that we do catch the eyes of others, and inspire them to do the same.
I loved the sentiment you expressed with this post- it is certainly something I try to do with each of my team members at least 1x/week. I find it really hard to read the post, however, with the animated gifs. On my screen I have motion appearing on the top and bottom of text; it gives me a headache and makes me a bit nauseous when they keep moving. Keep the posts coming because you have great messages but please limit your use of animation.
I’m so happy to hear gratitude and generosity are a regular part of how you work with your team, Cathy.
Thank you for letting me know how you feel about GIFs. Though GIFs don’t suit everyone, most people really enjoy them. Even so, they only make an occasional appearance in my articles.
Thank YOU for writing this article about the importance of expressing gratitude (verbal, email, handwritten note, text or tweet) and how it supports your personal brand.
Personally, I love to brighten someone’s day by thanking them for their contributions whether it is the cleaning staff at the health club, the cashier at the drive-thru, a family member, friend or colleague who helped me with a project, provided support or encouragement, and most importantly, expressing gratitude to God for the many blessings, lessons and resources I receive throughout my day.
And, on the flip side, I am happy to help others on a personal or professional level.
In closing, you’ve made my day!
I’m glad to hear I’ve made the day shine a bit brighter, Susan. Considering the smile on my face as I read your comment, you’ve returned the favor!
Thanks for putting this together for us to be reminded to take the time to pause and say thank you. I am not a big country music fan, but I heard a Tim McGraw song on the radio the other day with the lines: “When you get where you’re goin’ / Don’t forget turn back around / And help the next one in line / Always stay humble and kind.” It is a good reminder to lead with the heart of a public servant.
I’m not much of a country music fan either, so thank you for bringing those apt lyrics to my attention, Marsha.
Lauren, thank you for your awesome posts! Definitely reminded me to express some gratitude to you because I always find your blogs fun, insightful, and helpful!
Aw, that’s so nice of you to say, Francesca!
Love it! Yes. And thank you 🙂 I’m a fan of your GIFs / video snips – they make me laugh. As for showing gratitude and generosity in my professional life, I like to create images with text overlays specific to the person I’m appreciating. They’re like digital thank you notes. Also, I love your calendar reminder tip. DEFINITELY putting that one into practice right away.
GIF fans unite!
I love digital notes, too! For my closest friends’ birthdays, I try to make fun digital images for them that reference a fun moment we shared. No generic e-cards for me, I make it special for that individual. What a wonderful idea to bring that digital format into my thank you notes. Thanks, RoiAnn.
I disagree about the GIFs! They’re fun, youthful & modern. They really make articles like this more interesting and less boring. Maybe it’s because I’m young myself, but I’d much rather read an article that has GIFs than a screen of nothing but text.
What government needs desperately is youth engagement. And that means conveying ideas and emotions through visuals like GIFs, not walls of text.
You’re spot-on about the usefulness of digital visuals for reaching and engaging youth.
Any govies who’d like to learn more about how government is already using GIFs and tools for making your own GIFs can check out these articles I wrote:
Love this, Lauren!
The funny part is that being grateful and showing gratitude also make us happier. It’s a win-win.
So you have to wonder why it’s so often forgotten.
Thank you for a terrific piece!