Saying ‘thank you’ has been called the neglected art. Indeed, there is a reluctance among some managers to express adequate appreciation for a job well done. A few simple, well-placed thanks, however, can do wonders to improve the performance of your staff. To maximise the benefits of this powerful word, here are a few useful suggestions…

1. Speak up.

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone; you should never mistake your warm feelings and beaming smiles for the art itself. If you express your gratitude to a colleague, though, don’t cheapen the value of the well-earned thanks by mumbling the words or by being embarrassed. Think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Even a simple thanks sometimes requires preparation.

2. Say it – and mean it.

Every time we express sincere appreciation, we give value to the other person. Our words say, ‘You are important to me and to our organisation.’ Remember:

They who thank with the lips
Thank others but in part;
The full, the true thanksgiving
Comes from deep within the heart.

So say it as if you mean it – not just because you’re expected to. Routine and ritualised expressions of thanks often lack any real effect.

3. Be specific.

A vague, sweeping ‘thank you’ is not nearly as effective or as flattering as a clear-cut: ‘Thanks for drafting that letter to Joe Thompson, Judith. The reply was spot-on and it saved me heaps of time.’ Don’t leave people confused about what you’re thanking them for.

4. Avoid implied compliments.

A salesman stitched up a major contract on which his company was not the lowest bidder. When he returned to his office, his boss expressed pleasant surprise, saying that this was the first public bid in his memory by which the company won the contract without being the lowest bidder. This implied ‘thank you’ only left the salesman disappointed and let down; he felt that his performance was under-valued.

5. Make eye-to-eye contact.

Look directly at the person you’re thanking if you’re serious about what you’re doing. You might like to reinforce your appreciation with a casual pat on the elbow or shoulder.

6. Thank them by name.

A generalised ‘thank you, everyone’ carries little weight. Be generous and thank people individually whenever possible.

7. Surprise them.

Top managers everywhere practise daily the winning art of appreciation. They do it in offices, corridors, canteens, and carparks; over the telephone and in writing. And what they find is that thanks has much greater effect if it is given when least expected. A small surprise gift and an accompanying ‘thank you’ from the manager makes an employee feel appreciated.

8. Thank them in writing.

It was Lee Iacocca who said: ‘When I must criticise somebody, I do it orally; when I thank somebody, I put it in writing.’

Thanks is even more effective in writing: oral praise fades away; a letter or brief note endures.

Consider producing sets of folded ‘thank-you cards’ on which the words Thank You are printed on the front, with space on the inside for your comments. Whenever a colleague or employee warrants your gratitude, write a brief note expressing your appreciation. Certificates of appreciation or plaques are other alternatives of lasting value to an employee.

9. Do it in public.

People usually appreciate the thanks if you acknowledge their individual efforts in front of their colleagues. When people feel they matter, morale is high. When extra effort is recognised publicly, self-esteem soars.

10. Know the person.

With experience, you will get to know the different ways your various staff members like to be thanked. Some like public appreciation; others don’t. Some appreciate flowers or chocolates; others prefer a written note of thanks. Consider your options; consider your people.

11. Be creative.

The ways in which you can thank someone are limited only by your imagination. Saying thanks can be just as much fun for you as it is for the recipient of your gratitude.

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