This past weekend was Memorial Day here in the US which is a time for our country to stop and say thank you to all of our military, past and present. It’s a wonderful way of acknowledging the gift of service these men and women give to the rest of us. We also have many other, less formal, days of recognition throughout the year like boss’s day, admin assistant day, grandparent’s day, etc. Why limit our thanks to a handful of days a year?
This past Saturday my son’s scout troop place small flags on the graves of veterans in two of the local cemeteries under the direction of a gentleman from the American Legion. As the boys finished up he thanked them for their help in recognizing our veterans. Before we left my son went over to him and thanked him for his service to our country. The look of surprise and appreciation in his eyes was worth the moment it took to nudge my son into action. To have a teenager go out of his way to say thanks obviously meant a lot to him. This happened during a time when, as a country, we go out of our way to say thank you to the military members. It reminded me that sometimes the small gestures mean more than grand events.
As leaders we should be looking for ways to appreciate the people around us. Saying thanks for a good job, thanking someone for their extra effort, congratulations on a project well executed, complimenting someone on a good idea, recognizing that a person stepped up to solve a problem, the list is endless. Often our organizations have formal methods for rewarding and recognizing people. While these are great and needed, the simple human contact of personally looking someone in the eye and saying “Thank You” means more to them. I still have a hand written thank you note a senior manager wrote to me after a project I worked on over 15 years ago. It made me feel good to receive that acknowledgement of my contribution.
Studies show that people will do the things that are recognized. If all we notice and comment on in our daily interactions are mistakes, problems, and challenges then we will get more mistakes, problems and challenges. If we spend time recognizing the often quiet work well done, problems solved without help, challenges met then we will get more work well done, problems solved and challenges met. We get what we focus on most. This is also the time for a personal touch, not an electronic one. If possible thank the person face-to-face. It doesn’t have to be in front of a group or a big production, just stop focus on them and share your appreciation. If you are dealing with people who work remotely from you, make the phone call and only discuss your appreciation.
Also, make sure to do this as close to the time the event occurred as you can. This amplifies the meaning of the thanks. It is possible that you will not learn of it for a while, that’s okay as long as you jump on the chance to recognize the behavior. You can say “I just heard about what you did … Thank you.” It will still carry enormous power.
Simple acts of gratitude will earn loyalty from your team. They will know that you appreciate them and they will respond in kind. Take the time to recognize the good in your team. As well, look for ways to say thanks to your boss and your peers. All of us could use a kind word, and the further up the ladder you go the less often you hear them. Go first and show your gratitude.