On a Mother’s Day many years ago, I received what remains one of the most delightful and meaningful Thank You notes ever. The sender was my son’s Little League coach, Coach Bob, who demonstrated a leadership quality that went beyond the baseball field.
People appreciate being thanked. This is true whether you’re a Little League mom, a government worker or employed by a large company. The benefits of appreciation have implications for employee retention and engagement as well. And sadly, some employees aren’t feeling the love, according to a study that says 59% of people report never having felt appreciated by their boss at work. Effective leaders understand the power of gratitude in fostering strong relationships with their team.
Not all “thank you’s” are created equal, especially in leadership. Here’s what made Bob’s message of gratitude so powerful and relevant to leadership:
It was unexpected. Never underestimate the element of surprise. How many Little League moms do you suppose receive a note of thanks from their team’s head coach on Mother’s Day? When an expression of gratitude comes from an unexpected source, it amplifies an already pleasant experience. Leadership, like coaching, should strive for unexpected acts of appreciation. When leaders express gratitude unexpectedly, it amplifies their ability to connect with and inspire their team.
Sincerity. I’ve absolutely no doubt about the sincerity of Bob’s message because, already this early in the season, he’s established a rapport with his players and the team parents. He has a track record of positive comments, so I trust his motives in sending this message.
Specificity. Rather than stop with a perfunctory “thanks for all you do,” Bob cited very specific actions that he was thanking us for: washing the boys’ uniforms, helping out in the dugout and taking stats during the game. Just as Bob highlighted the specific contributions of the Little League moms, leaders can acknowledge their team’s individual and collective efforts
It spoke to my heart. The message was made all the more powerful because Bob tapped into a strong maternal motivator: the desire to raise a decent human being.
Your sons have never had one moment when they are anything less than attentive, respectful, energetic, and normal. They have won without gloating and lost without complaining. They hustle, respect their opponent, are grateful for a post-game treat. . . Any success that we have can be traced back to you and the job that you have done in raising these boys!
Leaders can also tap into the motivations and values that resonate with their team members’ hearts. Bob’s message, acknowledging the dedication of the moms in raising decent human beings, is akin to leaders recognizing the core values and aspirations of their team members.
With this heart-felt and sincere message, Bob provided the highest praise for a parent: acknowledgement of one of the hardest jobs around. His words of thanks had a profound impact.
Take a look around. Who do you know that could benefit from a sincere and specific note of thanks that’s both unexpected and from the heart?
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