This is a special week for all of our US friends. Thanksgiving presents a unique time to get together with family and friends, to take a few minutes to be thankful and to give thanks. (For my American readers, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in October.)
I was about to give a keynote address at a local company recently, when I ran into a young lady who greeted me with a big smile as she announced that her Dad passed on his greetings. Her Dad helped me launch my very first project management conference back in 1997 by supporting me through his company. Upon seeing her, I wondered if I had ever really thanked her Dad for what he had done. It was easy to tell his daughter what that effort meant to me back then but as I did, I was thinking if I were expressing the thought to the right person. It is important to say thank you, even 18 years later. (I sent a bottle of wine home with her.)
Saying thank you is important – at many different levels.
It is important for the receiver. We all need to be recognized and to be told every once in a while that we are appreciated: our work needs to be held up; our efforts need to be highlighted; our role on the team needs to be acknowledged.
It is important for the deliverer. We need to take the time to realize that it is the people around us that make us, that get us to the next level, that help us succeed and grow. Saying thank you is both humbling and empowering at the same time.
So in your professional world, how can you say thank you? My answer is: award, reward or write a letter.
- Award. I run two training programs across Canada through the Schulich Executive Education Centre with a team of 35 instructors. We get together for at least one day every year to talk about lessons learned and changes going forward. The last agenda item every year is the awards ceremony. There are awards for each trainer who consistently exceeded expectations on evaluation scores. There is an award nominated by all of the administrators across the country for the one person that adds that something extra to their engagements. And finally, there is the award that I give to one person who made my life better, easier or more rewarding. Three awards, each different with multiple recipients.Some people like, and deserve, an award. It can be a formal award that you give away every month, quarter or year. It can an ad hoc award at any time for any reason. Big or small, the idea is that someone in your group is recognized and everyone knows about it. This is the key to an award: everyone hears about. In fact, typically it is announced and awarded in a very public setting. This is part of the package. All instructors in my annual meeting see each of their peers get up to receive the award. An important message for all.
- Reward. On its own, rewarding someone typically takes the public scene away and becomes very much the one-on-one recognition that many deserve and appreciate. It does not have to be big. It could easily be a small gift card from a local coffee shop, or a local book store or Amazon. It does not have to be a large amount, something small is just as effective. In fact, I would suggest that if you can expense it, great, but if not, you do it anyway. A small token of thanks every once in a while goes a long way.
- Write a letter. If you have ever heard me speak, you should be chuckling right now because this is a theme that I try to weave into almost all of my speeches. We need to write more letters. To say thank you, I am sorry or congratulations. I have my own letterhead – junior size with my name at the top and matching envelopes. I will try to pick up a sheet as much as once a week to drop a line to someone in my life. Think of the last time you received a hand-written letter from someone for any reason. This simple gesture can make such a difference in someone’s life.
Saying thank you in this form takes the public out of the picture. Maybe the recognition requires both a letter with some very personal words of appreciation and then a more public announcement. Each scenario would be treated differently but in so many cases, the personal letter is the key. No more than one page, sort and simple: “Thank you. You did a great job”
What is not on this list? Email. The kind of expressions of appreciation I am talking about here do not involve email. Email is impersonal and way too easy. Save Outlook for the quick ‘thx’. Not the heartfelt, purposeful ‘Thank you’.
Taking a little time to go out of your way to say thank you to someone in your life can make a big difference to you and to them.