Sometimes—okay, a lot of the time—we don’t say thank you enough. When we work with leaders and managers, we hear various explanations for this oversight:
“Why should I thank someone for doing their job? I’m not here to hand out participation trophies.”
“I’m so busy and distracted with the business, sometimes I miss all the good stuff.”
“I have rockstar employees…..they already know they are doing well.”
On one hand, we understand this kind of thinking. Business leaders are already maxed out by the daily challenges they face—market fluctuations, unpredictable weather, staffing shortages, and so much more. On the other hand, we know that recognizing employees for a job well done isn’t just a feel-good indulgence. It’s a smart, strategic way to boost engagement and build strong teams—and a thriving company.
Research backs this up. In their groundbreaking book, Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall explain that when it comes to creating engagement, giving positive feedback (or positive attention) is 30x more effective than negative feedback. Worth noting: providing negative feedback (or negative attention) is 40x more effective at creating engagement than flat-out ignoring people or problems—so choosing not to say anything does more harm than good. And for those rock star employees that we may not recognize because they know they are doing well? While it’s not our intent, by not saying anything the impact is ignoring them.
How to make “thank you” matter more
Simply saying “thank you” will result in more of the behaviors you want from your employees, more of the time. (We explore this important topic in detail during the third week of our Ignite to Transform for Team Leaders program.) Easy as it is to express your appreciation, here are some tips for getting the most out of every thank you.
- Be intentional and aware. Humans are hard-wired to notice perils and problems, and it takes a bit more effort to notice when things are going right. Train yourself to see what’s working—and, most importantly, who’s responsible—by pausing a couple of times each day to reflect on what’s going well. Once you’re aware of the good stuff, you can act on it.
Read this blog about how feedback training gave Len Busch Roses a competitive advantage.
- Be selective and specific. Thanking people willy-nilly actually dilutes the power of praise. Instead, tie every appreciation to a concrete behavior or value you’ve observed—helping a customer carry a purchase to the car, proactively stocking the shelves, showing up on time—so your team knows exactly why each thank-you is warranted.
Read this blog about how feedback is the glue that holds companies together.
- Be positive and appreciative. Don’t muddle your “thank you” message by adding constructive feedback to the mix. Instead, schedule regular 1:1s so you have plenty of opportunity to express concerns and hear what’s on an employee’s mind.
Read this blog for strategies for a simple framework for giving effective feedback.
Now you know why “thank you” is our favorite two-syllable shortcut to higher engagement and performance, and even better attitudes at work. And since you’ve taken time out of your busy day to read these tips on becoming a better leader, now it’s our turn to say thank you.
P.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a leader, watch this 4-minute video-pep talk from Erin. Because you deserve it!
Our 8-week Ignite to Transform for Teams Leaders program explores the transformative power of saying thanks—and much, much more. Email Erin at email@example.com for more information about this program.