Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Power Of “Thank You”

Over the Labor Day Weekend, I had a chance to slow down and think about my relationship with the phrase, “Thank You.”

As a rug rat, I remember learning both the term and where to apply it from my parents. Then there was an extended period where “thank you” was possibly weak and immature, so it was certainly not used with my peers. I think that period was called “adolescence” and perhaps was extended.

More recently, as I have to get things done, I have been shown some big examples of the wonderful power of “Thank You.”

I think I started with some idea that people should have to do something worthy to rate a thank you. Then one day I thanked someone by mistake and was astonished by the result. They really thought they had done something good, and proceeded to change their behavior to keep being extraordinary!

I was amazed.

Then I observed that most of the time I could be bothered to thank someone, they immediately thought I had observed superior performance, and even if it was momentarily confusing to them, they started doing everything they could better.

I had discovered something important.

Next I learned that people I was thanking would often tell me what they were thinking about how we could improve some aspect of our relationship. This was good stuff that made immediate sense, and I was grateful to learn it.

Customers and employers thought I was gifted.

There have been a number of customer CEO's (more than five) who said something like, “I wish I had the relationship with my people that you do. Can you tell me how to do that?”

Now we're talking a pantry of ego food.

I remember going to a ten a.m. Saturday morning meeting with the owner of a company in Herndon, VA. He was all excited that we were having this private meeting when nobody else was in the building (his requirement), where I was going to tell him the secret of my success.

I said I thought the trick was I was thanking his people when they helped me.

He said, “Well, I can't do that.”

I was back in my car at ten after ten having wasted a perfectly good golf day.

More recently, in this ugly economy, I have been holding together some unintentionally volunteer projects. At least they were volunteer until they either paid off or were shut down. And I have noticed people can get prickly when they find themselves in an unintentionally volunteer project for too long.

Several times I have seen how “Thank You” kept people in play until we can create a successful resolution.

The other day I read a study that people don't quit companies. They quit bosses. Of course, I immediately thought, “They quit bosses who don't say, 'Thank you.'”

So I think “Thank You” is more than a social lubricant, although that is important.

Thank you is also a potent motivator that causes people to find the best in themselves and deliver time, after time, after time.

About three years ago, I started ending my emails with the phrase, “Thank You” after a sales manager objected to my using Dave Garroway's closing from the early Today Show, “Peace,” to members of the Department of Defense. The warriors liked it, he didn't.

Since then I realize that I truly am thankful for the recipients putting up with my errors, typos, wrong headed thinking, and interruptions. I am really thankful for the results that come from using this instantaneous, asynchronous, communication channel.

Yeah, “Thank You” works, but it also reminds me of all that I have to be thankful for working with many gifted people.

Of course, if you want my real appreciation, comment below on what you have observed about the power of “Thank You.” Let's build out this meme.