How Leaders Can Shine By Thanking Their Employees Better

Recently, my wife and I conducted a ten-week emotional resilience course for some members in our church congregation. 

One of the weekly commitments that each of us worked on was keeping a daily gratitude journal. All we had to do was reflect on our day and write one or more things that we were thankful for on that day.

It certainly helped put a smile on our face at the end of each day. This was something totally in our control and cost nothing to put in place. 

Imagine what leaders in your organization could do for employees if they thanked them better for everything they do. Here are some tips you can pass along to them. 

Stopping and Reflecting 

Yes, suggest that leaders also keep a gratitude journal. They should write one thing they are thankful for each day and try this for at least one month. In their regular leadership meetings, they can share with peers an entry with the rest of the group and tell how the gratitude process has made them feel. 

In staff meetings and during one-on-one sessions with employees, they should express thanks for things the employee has done. This means preparing ahead of time to know, recall, or find out actions they should be grateful for in the employee. 

One way to make thankfulness better is to become more aware daily of the different people leaders interact with. It might be the server in the staff cafeteria or the cleaning staff member who, every day, systematically makes the office spotless. And, it is making sure that your email etiquette never neglects conveying your gratefulness for people’s willingness to help and thanking them for completed actions. 

Planning Thanks In 

Sometimes, you might have to schedule in and plan to give thanks to people. Encourage leaders to block out 15 to 30 minutes towards the end of each workday to write a thank-you note to employees. Getting a handwritten note from a leader that acknowledges their contributions can mean the world. While an email note of thanks is still good, the handwritten gesture speaks volumes. 

This may require the leader soliciting input from their direct reports on the amazing things their staff are doing. The executive’s assistant can be the conduit for asking for employee names and receiving insights into these positive actions. 

You don’t hear the term “MBWA”, or management by walking around, very often these days. However, the principle of connecting with people in person or virtually is still vital. Leaders should plan to get out of the office literally or digitally and talk with staff about their issues and concerns. By learning what employees are working on and what gets them excited will give leaders the chance to discover the unknown things they take for granted. And naturally, they can thank them for all that they do. 

Express Thanks Right 

They define thank you as “a polite expression used when acknowledging a gift, service, or compliment, or accepting or refusing an offer.” It is also an expression of gratitude used to show appreciation for something. 

The ways to help leaders make saying thank you better do not differ from the principles for giving meaningful recognition. 

First, you thank people as specifically as you can for the gift given, or the action performed by the individual. Make sure you go beyond just saying the words “thank you,” so that the employee knows exactly what you are grateful for. 

Next, tell the employee how their actions made a difference to you, to other staff, your customers, or the company at large. Express how their positive attitude and behaviors truly impacted others. 

Timely Thanks 

Leaders should express thanks spontaneously, especially as they become more grounded in being grateful. Invite leaders to be on the lookout for anyone they interact with and their exemplary actions that merit thanks or recognition.

It may require leaders taking a second look after a meeting to ponder whether they missed thanking someone for something. Or preparing an agenda for a meeting and remembering they should thank a colleague for their help on a project. 

Executive leaders should receive coaching on the importance of the immediacy of saying thanks and giving recognition. If they observe the achievement or see the positive action happen, the leader should acknowledge the staff member right away. Should the leader hear second hand about amazing work from an employee, they can note the action and acknowledge them when they have scheduled time for thanks and recognition. 

Go over each of these ideas with your senior leader when you have your next recognition review meeting. Make a plan to help leaders give the best thanks ever. 

Recognition Reflection: How are your senior leaders doing with thanking employees for the great things they do?

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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