When was the last time you said, ‘thank you’ unexpectedly to someone on your team?

This past weekend was our Canadian Thanksgiving – a wonderful time to spend with family, eat way too much and give thanks.   This weekend always gets me thinking about our professional lives and the art and science of saying ‘thank you’.

I am talking about the unexpected “thank you” and not the obligatory thank you. The latter is required politeness and professionalism. The former is good relationship management.

I try to make a point of saying thank you to people in my professional life, unexpectedly, as often as I can.

Here are three ways that work for me.

  1. An impromptu lunch. Not too fancy and certainly not expensive. Maybe just a sandwich on the corner but a time for you and someone on your team to talk. The way this really works though, is to spend that hour or so talking about everything other than work. Get to know them, dig into their pastimes and hobbies and find out a little bit about the family. This kind of impromptu chat can be so appreciated by people at work.  The final 10 minutes is the ‘thank you’ – a sincere expression of gratefulness for the part they play on your team.
  1. Write a letter. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that this is an ongoing theme of mine. Get your letterhead with your name on it – it is not that expensive. Handwrite a sincere expression of appreciation and stick it in the mail or drop it on their desk. In this case, without the lunch, you might even consider a gift card – the local liquor store or coffee shop or even bookstore. I can tell you that nine times out of 10 that person has never received a letter of appreciation from anyone professional in their life.
  1. Create a monthly or quarterly award program for you to recognize one or even a few people for their effort and hard work. Forget the plaque and the picture on the wall. Give them a card with the gift card inside and hold them up in front of everyone for a genuine thank you.

A couple of words of warning. Don’t do any of this too often as it will seem as ingenuine.  And on that awards program, if you started it and don’t repeat it as promised forevermore you will lose face and credibility very quickly. I’ve seen this happen way too often so don’t do it. 

Note that my ways of saying ‘thank you’ do not include email, texting or any other electronic format.

So, who deserves a thank you from you this week?  Go get ‘em.

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