Yesterday I received a letter in the mail that said ‘thank you’ for something I had done. I read it once, then a second time later in the evening, and started to throw it away when I realized I needed to keep it. So I put it with some other letters I had received previously. As I looked at the stack I realized some had been in my possession for over 10 years. The written word has something special about it. I read a statistic one time that said 3% of thank yous were written and over 80% of those notes were still being saved 12 months later.
A staple in any leadership development program is to write a note to someone thanking them for something they did that had real value. A habit for any leader should be to have a stack of cards in their office and write 2 per month. Here is the card I have used for 5+ years and having them ready removes the excuse of I will do it tomorrow when I have something to write on.
I always look at writing a thank you as making a deposit into a trust account. There will be a point in time when I will have to say I am sorry for doing something that hurts a relationship. My mental goal is thank you notes >= sorry statements. If I am sorry > thank you then withdrawals are greater than deposits, and it is a bad trend.
If you control this equation by never saying I am sorry as a leader then you win, but there will be a price to pay.
In my house there is a standing joke that anything Dad has that is older than the kids is special. So far that list includes my marriage, some tools, some sporting equipment, a few t-shirts, underwear, and thank-you notes. I know – too much information. 🙂
Watch yourself this week – How often did you say thank you? How often did you say I am sorry? . . . . and write just one note!
A friend recently told me a great story. As part of a performance evaluation for one of his people who had worked hard this past year he gave all the things he was expected to provide – feedback in the form of an evaluation and a wage increase. But for this employee, he also handed tickets to a concert for he and his wife. The source of this gift was a conversation a couple of months earlier when it was shared that his wife loved this artist, but they could not justify the cost at that time. This third piece brought forth a response of passion and gratitude that way exceeded the response to the first two rewards. My friend hit the secret sauce of performance – knowing your people and giving them something REALLY special when they deserve it.
One question I love to ask people is What rewards mean the most to you? Too often Management 101 discussions neglect to tell the new leader that money is not a motivator. If that is not understood then you only have to sit in a room with 10 of your people and have someone like me ask that question. Money will be mentioned, but it is not at the top of the list.
Great rewards go deeper than just the standard list. The ability to connect family members, hobbies, or passions outside of work allows you to do two things:
Show that you care about them as a person.
Speak to other significant people in their lives with a message that you/your company cares. These friends/spouses are the people who encourage them after a day when maybe you are not so great a leader (we all have those days). They will also tell the story to other great people who might be looking to work for a great company/leader. The textbooks call these two things retention and attraction – and they are pretty important.
Interested in being this kind of leader? Here are two moves you can make:
Keep a file with everyone’s name and their answer to the question What rewards mean the most to you?
Keep notes in your file anytime they say I love to _________ or We would really like to see/go to _____________.
Then you just have to follow through when they do something great – but that is the easy part.