(Apologies to the late Steve Jobs and Apple for appropriating their motto.)
Every manager knows that appreciation is a significant part of your duty to your team. Letting them know you see and value their contributions is not only the right thing to do, it’s critical to their success – and yours.
But most people are just plain bad at thanking people. As a writer, I work hard to capture tone and convey precisely what I’m thinking, or what my clients are. It’s hard work, and most managers would rather hope that a breezy “thanks” will do the job.
Spoiler alert: it won’t
In a great post by Joel Schwartzberg for realleaders.com, he demonstrates clearly, step by step, how to make a thank you into something meaningful. He writes, “To give your appreciation rich meaning and value, it must answer the question, “Why is this person deserving of thanks?” Answering this question credits the achievement and the level of commitment, ingenuity, and hard work.” Here’s his tutorial, in his words.
Note the progression of impact as a leader recognizes “Sam” and includes more telling details:
► “My thanks to Sam, who delivered a presentation last week.”
Translation: “I understand Sam completed a task.”
► “My thanks to Sam, who delivered a great presentation last week.”
Translation: “I noticed Sam did a good job.”
► “My thanks to Sam, whose presentation on inventory innovations last week was powerful and had good ideas.”
Translation: “I paid attention to Sam’s presentation. He did a good job, and his effort can have value for the team.”
► “My thanks to Sam, whose presentation on inventory innovations last week demonstrated how much time and energy we can save if we think as creatively as he did.”
Translation: “Sam got my attention with his presentation. He impressed me with his points about innovation, and I think we can all learn from them.”
“Yes,” Schwartzberg writes, “giving meaningful, contextual thanks takes considerably more time and energy than simply saying or emailing the word “thanks,” but when you see it as a valuable opportunity to reward and inspire, the return on your investment is clear.”
One of Schwartzberg’s tips is to eliminate the use of adjectives. He writes, “When you banish adjectives, you force yourself to use more meaningful and specific words.” That’s good writing advice for anyone. Words like “good,” even “terrific,” are lazy. They are so broad that they don’t mean anything, and they force your listener or reader to do the work of supplying why the presentation was good.
What if you couldn’t use “good?” You’d have to dig deeper to convey the why, the how, and what made the presentation worthwhile. When you do the work of thinking it through and taking the time to talk about it with precision, you’ve invested in your praise. And your team will know it immediately.
Your words matter. Think different. Thank different.