It is amazing when you look back at life. You can see root beginnings of getting into the professional field you ended up in.
Where did this interest in employee recognition begin for me? I often thought it was because of my experience in healthcare and seeing the poor effect of non-specific feedback with patients.
Maybe it had its beginnings even further back.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I joined the church when I was 20-years old. You may have seen, or even met with, our young people who serve full-time missions for 18-months or two-years in their late teens or early twenties.
When I was living in Toronto, Canada, “sister” missionaries, young adult women, who came from around the world taught me what we believe in, and about the Church.
I was always grateful for the lessons they taught me. Knowing these young people were away from their families, I figured it would be good to write their folks. I would tell the parents of these missionaries all about the great things their children were doing.
So, that’s what I did. I started writing what seemed like ordinary thank you letters to the parents of these missionaries.
I wrote one of those letters to Shauna Rasmussen’s parents who lived in Roosevelt, Utah. My letter was a fairly normal, everyday type of letter. I shared about her positive example. I thanked her parents for how they raised her. I shared how she was a good missionary and showed compassionate service to others.
Meanwhile, something else was going on at home. Here’s what I could never have known.
When the parents received this letter, they also read it to Shauna’s grandmother. It seems her grandmother was dying of old age. The parents read the letter to their grandmother. Three days later, Shauna’s grandmother passed away. The grandmother died happy to know her granddaughter away from home, was doing well, was happy, and loved and appreciated where she was serving.
Shauna later told me this experience as she shared how grateful she was I had written the letter. It meant a lot to her parents and even more to her grandmother.
Flash forward a year later. Now I am preparing to serve my mission for the church. Except for me, I am learning to speak Dutch at the missionary training center in Provo, Utah. After two months learning the language and the lessons we would teach, I left for two-years to serve the people of Belgium.
Many of my companions were American. Some were locals. The missionaries who came from nearby always seemed to get parcels with treats, cake, and cookies in them. There was no way this Canuck from Toronto was getting a parcel.
Except on one snowy day in November I routinely checked my mailbox. Besides letters from home, there was a parcel tag. I had received a package. But from whom?
The training center’s post office people handed me a big bakery box. All the companions in my group were supercurious. I opened the box. Inside, stacked up on one another, were fifty of the biggest raisin cookies you have ever seen.
We all dug in to enjoy this surprise treat. Everyone asked me who sent this huge package to me. That’s when I looked and found a small note.
It was from Shauna’s parents. They lived 120 miles away from where I was in Provo, Utah. They had driven over two-hours to drop off this unexpected box of cookies. Shauna’s Mom must have taken a lot of time to make and bake so many cookies. It was their way of saying thank you to me.
In the note, Shauna’s parents expressed their gratitude for the letter I wrote almost a year before. They shared how much it meant to their grandmother, who just smiled after reading the note. The grandmother said she was so pleased her granddaughter was loved by the Canadian people in Toronto.
You may never know how much your thank you note, or card, means to someone else. After all, I had written many other notes before and heard nothing back from anyone else. And that was never my intent.
Yet this box of raisin cookies spoke volumes to me of the difference that one thank you note meant to this one family.
Never underestimate the value of the time and effort you put in to thank someone. It might be in person or on the phone. You could express your appreciation through an online ecard or in a handwritten thank-you card.
Even if all that your thank you note does is make the receiver smile, you have made the world a better place.
That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Recognition Reflection: Do you make sure you have the right intention with thanks and recognition you give to people?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.