Appreciation and Thanks: Fueling Our Leadership Journey

 
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One day a friend of my daughters stopped by to give me a thank you card as she was heading out for college. In that moment, I am thinking to myself, what a thoughtful thing to do! I opened the card not expecting to read the following:  

I can’t tell you what it’s meant to me

 to always feel so loved

and welcome in your home.

Some of my best memories from senior year

 were at your house,

surrounded by love and laughter.

You’ve been such a fantastic role model, and I truly look up to you.

Tears immediately rolled down my cheek. Why? Because I had only known this beautiful girl for a short time. I thought back to all of these moments where we would open up our home to the girls, prepare appetizers, snacks and lemonade as they would get ready for a school event, game or dance. What do I remember most? Chaos and laughter as the girls bustled to get prepared. This thank you struck me. Why? 1) I never expected such a small act to have a significant impact. 2) The simple act of her taking the time to write a thank you, a heartfelt thank you made my heart sing!

Just last week, we were closing a nine-month leadership program with an exercise to fuel their leadership journey. The power of the activity is sharing a wish or appreciation on a small piece of paper for each participant and once read aloud it goes into a beautiful bowl. The bowl filled with these wishes and appreciations is what the leader carries forward with them on their journey. Imagine yourself having one of those days when nothing seems to be going right, maybe a project was canceled, you lost a star employee, you were asked to take a role or project you aren’t excited about.

Now, think about the days when something significant happens to you, you landed a big contract, your first article was published, or your new product landed on the shelves, maybe even a promotion or your dream job. Looking into that bowl at those who supported you along the way make the journey even more rewarding, right? When I started my company about six years ago, I remember feeling how lonely it was. I no longer had a boss giving me words of appreciation or encouragement, my peer group sat within various companies, and some even became competitors.

As I begin to work with clients, I would receive an email or note saying how much of an impact I had made on them. Wow, I thought! This is good stuff. Stuff I need to take alongside me on my journey to remind me of the important work we are doing. Yes! I have a bowl I put emails of appreciation, notecards, cards, and even social media messages. I look back into it from time to time. It reminds me of three things:

  1. It is important work I am doing, and people appreciate it!

  2. I am surrounded by people who will tell me when I am doing something well AND also tell me when I need to get my act together.  

  3. Never forget to show my appreciation and thanks. Ever. No matter how busy I get, send the thank you, make the phone call, send the card. 

One of the most unique graduation gifts my daughter received just a few months ago from my friend Julie was a pack of thank you cards, stamps, and a pen. The notecard read:  

You’re going to have tough days and think what the hell have I gotten myself into.

On those days I want you to think about a person who made a difference in your life. Now, I want you to write a thank you note and let them know how they made a difference.

And remember, they have days just like today too.

 

Think about that for a minute. What a lesson!  

I was coaching a leader from a fortune 10 company who had just received feedback she rarely showed appreciation or thanks to her teams. This leader found the input devastating. She genuinely cared for her team, and she thought they knew that. There is a difference between caring and showing appreciation or thanks. She decided to create a new weekly habit. The new habit included her asking herself the following two questions at the end of the day:

  1. Who am I most grateful for today?

  2. Have I let them know?

 

WARNING! DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! Ok, wait… do try it at work and at home!

For your next team meeting, bring a fun notecard for each person. Have the team divide into pairs. Share the following instructions: you have five minutes to find three strengths of the person you are paired up with. Use everyone or as many as you can from the team to gather this information quickly. At the end of the five minutes, return to your pairs and share what the team appreciates about your partner with them!

The hunt to find three strengths can be so much fun! Being the recipient of the card is even better!

 What gets what recognized gets repeated. If we take time to understand those strengths or appreciations? They will get repeated. As a leader, it’s important to be intentional about giving thanks and appreciation.

What can you do this week to build or enhance your habits to include thanks for appreciation?

Ready to turn your appreciation and thanks into more strategic decisions. Check out our 15-page guide, See the Big Picture, for a list of simple ideas that will help transform you and your company. Get your free copy here.

 
Nicole Bianchi