Leadership Tactic #67: Thanksgiving

I know, I already did a Thanksgiving entry, but something unexpected happened that is worth sharing.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and the office was quiet. It was around 2:00, and I was looking for something to fill my time before my intended departure of 4:30.

A blog entry came to mind that I had read at lunch but quickly dismissed. It told the story of the CEO of a company called Modern Survey who spends a good chunk of his Thanksgiving Day calling his employees (and clients, but employees first) to tell each one of them specifically why he was thankful for them.

I dismissed the blog entry because I pictured Average Employee Guy getting that phone call and going through the motions of receiving praise until his boss let him get back to his family. My impression of it has more to do with my perception of receiving praise than Thanksgiving itself. “Words of Affirmation” is one of my lowest love languages, so praise doesn’t do much for me…but that doesn’t mean that other people don’t value it. Also, it’s my perception that I thank my coworkers and employees all the time.

So at 2:00 on Wednesday, I though, “Why not?” I still wasn’t going to call my coworkers/employees and bother them on their day off, but I resolved to e-mail all 13 of them with specific details about why I’m thankful for them. They weren’t long e-mails, but they were individualized. I’m repeating that because I think that’s key. You probably say “thanks” to dozens of people every day. But to be truly thankful for something or someone, you have to tell them why.

I’m writing this blog entry because I am genuinely surprised by the reaction to those little notes of gratitude. My coworkers and employees are still on vacation, and yet I’ve already heard back from over half of them as they expressed how touched they were to be affirmed in that way. I should note that my e-mails had no questions in them, no prompts, no reason why anyone needed to reply (and I was careful not to write the e-mails as if I was fishing for compliments myself).

It was a little gesture in the grand scheme of things, just an hour or two of my time on the day before Thanksgiving. But it was absolutely worth my time, and I’ll definitely do it every year from now on. I’m writing this because it’s not too late for you to do the same for your employees/coworkers/clients/etc. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how touched people are by your words.

4 thoughts on “Leadership Tactic #67: Thanksgiving”

  1. What an awesome idea. Thanks for reminding me that even though gifts and praise is not how I feel appreciated and loved, doesn’t mean it’s not others love languages. I’m definitely stealing this idea, and will also start incorporating the love languages on the bottom of my list starting now.

    Reply
  2. Jaam, this is a great idea. To take this to the next level, consider how much impact genuinely expressing the value someone provides to your organization would have if it were dissociated from Thanksgiving as well. If you think of those people who really seemed to get something out of the e-mail (and even those who didn’t), it might be worth 10 minutes to offer them similar praise when they’ve gone above and beyond in the office (keeping it relevant and timely). I have a bunch of thoughts and materials on employee recognition if you’re ever interested in seeing them.

    Reply
    • Trev–I definitely agree that it doesn’t have to be connected Thanksgiving. I think the key is that there is no ulterior motive other than to say thanks. I thank my employees all the time in passing or in performance review meetings. But I think the key to the success of my e-mail thank yous was that the sole purpose of those e-mails was to show my gratitude for my employees and coworkers. They weren’t thank yous that predicated criticism, and they weren’t thank yous because of a chance meeting in the hallway. They were focused, specific, and individualized. That type of thank you is definitely worth saying more than once a year.

      Reply

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