Leaders should always remember to say Thank You.
Over the past year I have had the opportunity to read many books related to leadership. One of my goals was to identify features of successful leaders that could be replicated by others. On one of my leadership book buying sprees I wandered across the book Thank You Power by Deborah Norville. While it is not a book about leadership, I think that it should be required reading for those who lead. The thesis of Thank You Power is simple, “practicing gratitude, acknowledging the blessings in your life, and making it a point to recognize those good things, will positively change your life.” I think it also has the potential to change organizations.
During a series of job shadowing assignments, I was able to accompany senior government officials, each for a single day. I was struck by how much they articulated their appreciation for the people they depend on. Even though they were in positions of authority, they did not take for granted how much support they received from their staff and contractors. Some thanks were simple (I’m paraphrasing):
• “thank you for bringing my schedule” (to the administrative assistant who planned the official’s day).
• “thank you for a job well done” (to an entire staff for closing a grant cycle successfully).
Other “thank you” moments I observed involved more than words. I observed an office give out tiny gifts ($10 or less) during an all staff meeting to people who had worked hard on an annual conference. I went with one official to the drug store where she bought bags of candy to distribute at a meeting to launch a new technology. Why? To thank everyone for coming and make sure they had something to snack on as they sat through an afternoon meeting.
Why is expressing gratitude important for a leader? Norville gives a clue:
“Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. First there is the gift itself: a loving gesture, a kind word, a cookie when no treats were expected-the gift itself evokes pleasure for the recipient. . . But the pleasure extends beyond just the gift. Unspoken in this exchange is the recognition that the recipient was worthy of this gift.”
In each of the examples I observed federal staff members were given clear indications that their bosses appreciated them. And this is not something that appears to happens every day – many, many federal government workers do not feel appreciated by their organization. On the most recent Federal Human Capital Survey, only app. 50 % gave a positive response to the question: “How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?”
That’s terrible. Maybe our leaders need training in “Thank You Power.” I know in my own leadership journey I am taking Norville’s advice to heart (and not just at Thanksgiving). In my personal life, I have gone back to old favorites (the handwritten, mailed thank you card) and new favorites (#FollowFriday on Twitter) to let people know that I appreciate them. In the office, I like to Thank You by email so the person has a record for their files, but I also like to wander around and say thanks in person. I think the form doesn’t really matter as long as you express the thought.
So in the spirit of this blog: "Thank You for taking the time to read my thoughts."