In my last newsletter, I said I’d finish my thoughts on creating strategy and operational goals. Given that this is the week before Thanksgiving, I changed my mind and wrote instead about giving thanks to employees. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving week (if you are in the US) and enjoy this newsletter!
It’s Thanksgiving time in the US, when our thoughts turn to what we are grateful for. A common tradition at the Thanksgiving table is to share what each person gives thanks for that year. I like to send Thanksgiving cards to my clients, thanking them for their business. It seems that everyone is thanking others and counting their blessings around this holiday.
Do you give thanks and appreciation to your employees only at Thanksgiving time?
Ongoing expressions of appreciation and gratitude are powerful tools for both personal growth and for building a healthy company culture. In my individual coaching work, I ask people to keep a daily journal of the experiences for which they are grateful. In that way, people can identify what they enjoy doing - in order to do more of it! (If you are working with me to discern the next chapter in your professional life, expect me to assign you that task!) When we do what we enjoy at work, we are happier and more productive. It’s all goodness!
In building a healthy organizational culture, gratitude and appreciation (thanks-giving) is a secret ingredient that every leader should be using more of. If you want to create an environment of positive regard, flourishing employees and high productivity, be more appreciative of your workers!
It’s like your mother said: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If you want to inspire your workers, thank them for their job. If you want to encourage more positive behaviors in your organization, thank your workers for the good things they do. If you want to increase productivity or innovation, celebrate the successes of your employees. Here are some example stories:
1. It is specific.
It’s OK to thank employees for “everything you do for us.” But how much more powerful is the appreciative message if it is specific? Lots more, because it gives concrete examples and encourages more of the same behavior. For example: “Thank you so much for handling that angry customer on the phone so well. I could hear that he was yelling at you, and your use of empathy and even a little self-deprecating humor really calmed him down. Awesome job!” Now the employee knows exactly what she did that was outstanding, and she is likely to do more of it. What’s more, if you thank her in front of other workers, they know what is expected of them.
If you are delivering this message in person, be sure to look the person in the eye and smile! The body language may seem trivial to you, but it comprises the majority of the message received.
In the above example of the manager writing letters, we see that she is specific about what she admired in the employee’s work and asked for more actions like it. After the compliment, you could add, “I look forward to observing your outstanding performance again in the future.” Or simply, “Keep up the good work.”
2. It is timely.
It is NOT ok to appreciate your employees only once or twice a year – either at Thanksgiving or at annual performance review time. The trouble with this yearly approach is that the appreciation isn’t timely. Appreciation and thanks-giving are best expressed soon after you catch someone doing something right. That way, you and the employee remember exactly what happened, and the employee gets real-time feedback so they can maintain and build on their positive actions.
3. It is appropriate for the situation, in both size and audience.
There are two levels of appropriateness: the size of the compliment or reward is in keeping with the contribution of the employee, and the appreciation is delivered in front of an appropriate audience. Taking the example of the CEO entering the awards ceremony on an elephant, this was appropriate because the event was a BIG deal: The employees had achieved important milestones by contributing to the company’s success, and there were several thousand of them receiving bonus checks. Needless to say, an elephant is not appropriate for presenting a $25 gift card to one employee.
The other part of appropriateness is the audience that observes the receiving of the thanks. For some people and situations, a private pat on the back (with specific compliments) is best. Especially shy or introverted people may prefer to stick pins in their eyes than have to get up in front of a large audience and accept an award. For others, a public ceremony is the only way to go. Again, it has to do with size – the achievement of an impactful stretch goal is large – but it also has to do with the personality of the recipient.
4. It has a personal touch.
I have a friend who always chooses the perfect birthday gift for her recipient. Her gifts are hand-picked and always reflect thoughtfulness on her part. Likewise, your thanks-giving to an employee should be personal, both in terms of what is given to the individual and how you give it. For example, I received the President’s Award at a large company I worked for early in my career, and the site manager had someone ask me what I’d really like for a gift. I received a very nice bicycle that I could ride with my family – just what I wanted and very personally appropriate for me at the time. My manager presented it to a large audience, with specific descriptions of what I had done to deserve it, and shook my hand as she presented it to me. I felt great!
This Thanksgiving, make it a priority to personally thank and appreciate your employees. Make your comments specific, timely, appropriate and personal. Then watch how motivation soars!
Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, F.P., (2013). Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills. New Jersey: Pearson.
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