Thanking the people who work for you is one of the easiest ways to increase goodwill and motivation, and yet it’s probably the most neglected part of management. We’ve all had bosses who didn’t thank us for our efforts, when it would have cost them nothing.
Why don’t leaders thank? I think they just don’t think of it—they get so caught up in their daily objectives and problems, they forget to thank people. I’ve heard many bosses say, “After all, they get paid, don’t they? What more do they want?” Also, thanking someone requires the leader to know what the team has done, and sometimes leaders can be a bit remote from the realities of the job that their people are doing.
How to Thank Someone
It may seem obvious, but there are three things to remember when you thank someone.
• First, make it specific—don’t just say that they’re great, but tell them that there’s something specific they’ve done that you think is good.
• Second, it’s more powerful if you can say how you feel about what they did: proud, grateful, happy, or whatever you really do feel. You don’t have to do this, but it’s great if you can. The format is, “I noticed you redesigned the demo, and it made me feel really proud in front of the customer, so thank you.”
• Third is body language: Remember to look them in the eye as you thank them and to smile. And consider shaking their hand, which can sometimes really add impact.
Also, you have to remember that thanking is not the same as praise. The difference is that praise has its place in coaching; it is about encouraging someone who is learning, while thanking is showing gratitude for the work of someone who is competent. So, if you use praise instead of thanks, there is a risk that if the person is already competent in that area, it’ll sound patronizing. You wouldn’t say, “You’re really good at operating that machine,” as it would be much better to say, “Thanks for that great job you did this weekend.”
People usually say, “as often as they deserve it,” or, “whenever you see something good,” which is fine, but I’d also like to suggest weekly as a rough rule. Of course, you might thank someone several times in the same week or not at all for a week, but generally, if they haven’t been thanked for several weeks, they are like a pot plant that hasn’t been watered—they are drooping over and desperate for sustenance.
One other point on frequency: For every time you tell someone off or criticize them, it takes ten thankings to get their motivation back to where they were. So, criticizing should ideally be never, and if you do, then don’t forget to find some good things in the following days to get the motivation back up again.
It’s easy to thank the people you like or who are the top performers, but you should thank everyone equally. This may mean looking harder for good things in the case of some people or thanking them for smaller things in order to build them up. Remember, you must still thank the people you don’t like—and those who aren’t great performers—for something real they do.
Homework: This week, see if you can thank everyone who works for you, for something specific that they have done. Then keep doing it every week from then on!
Bye for now!
P.S. For more information on leadership, delivered regularly and for free, get my free email tips at free-management-tips.co.uk.
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