The Power of “Thank You”

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Most managers and supervisors know that the single greatest disappointment employees suffer in the workplace is the feeling that their hard work and effort goes unnoticed.  What most managers and supervisors don’t know is that the second greatest disappointment employees have is insincere or inappropriately applied recognition!  Does it seem to you that sometimes you can’t win?!  The fact is you can all win, and here is how you do it.

First, you need to train yourself to constantly be on the look out for someone doing something right.  As managers, we typically spend way too much time dealing with hot spots or trouble issues.  Believe it or not, you have to develop the habit of seeking the good work that’s being done all around you.

Second, take time to visit with your staff when there is not a crisis or a problem to deal with.  Sometimes a quick five minute meeting just to say Hi and let everyone know that they are OK is worth its weight in gold.  If the only time you get together is when something is wrong, how excited are your people when you call a meeting or when they interact with you?  The development of non-crisis interaction time is critical to team development and positive employee moral.

Third, learn the Power Thank You.  For a simple “thank you” to become a powerful, and motivational tool for managers and supervisor’s, simply apply these four basic rules:

  • Be timely. After a few weeks the accomplishment is forgotten.
  • Be specific to something the employee accomplished, a task or goal completed.
  • Acknowledge the effort it took to complete the goal.
  • Address personally the benefits you and the company received as a direct result of this effort.

One of the first things I look for in a President or CEO is how well they know, and then acknowledge, their employees efforts and tasks. A Chief Executive who can not only recognize an employee by name but also by task and accomplishment, well…, that’s a keeper.

Consider this idea in forming a positive habit.

Sometimes we’re busy and we forget about what’s really important.  To remind us to do the right thing, I ask my executives to start their day with three pennies in their right pocket. Every time they offer someone a power thank you, they move a penny to their left.  By the end of the day, all three pennies need to be in that left pocket.”

We spend more daylight hours at our workplace than with our families and friends so it is reasonable to assume that we should do all we can to make our work environment as pleasant as possible.  The Power Thank You is one way to support this philosophy.

Sharon Jenks, CPBA, is CEO of The Jenks Group, a Solana Beach, CA based consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and executive team development.  Sharon can be reached at

How Does Your Boss Measure Up?

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10 Things Only Exceptional Bosses Give Employees

Good bosses have strong organizational skills. Good bosses have solid decision-making skills. Good bosses get important things done.

Exceptional bosses do all of the above — and more. (And we remember them forever.) Sure, they care about their company and customers, their vendors and suppliers. But most importantly, they care to an exceptional degree about the people who work for them.

And that’s why they’re so rare.

Extraordinary bosses give every employee:

1. Autonomy and independence.

Great organizations are built on optimizing processes and procedures. Still, every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micro-managed approach. (Here’s looking at you, manufacturing industry.)

Engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care when it’s “mine.” I care when I’m in charge and feel empowered to do what’s right.

Plus, freedom breeds innovation: Even heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches. (Still looking at you, manufacturing.)

Whenever possible, give your employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. When you do, they almost always find ways to do their jobs better than you imagined possible.

2. Clear expectations.

While every job should include some degree of independence, every job does also need basic expectations for how specific situations should be handled.

Criticize an employee for offering a discount to an irate customer today even though yesterday that was standard practice and you make that employee’s job impossible. Few things are more stressful than not knowing what is expected from one day to the next.

When an exceptional boss changes a standard or guideline, she communicates those changes first — and when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made, and what she expects in the future.

3. Meaningful objectives.

Almost everyone is competitive; often the best employees are extremely competitive–especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

Plus, goals are fun. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just work.

No one likes work.

4. A true sense of purpose.

Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turns a group of individuals into a real team.

The best missions involve making a real impact on the lives of the customers you serve. Let employees know what you want to achieve for your business, for your customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.

Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about and, more importantly, why to care.

5. Opportunities to provide significant input.

Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.

That’s why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions. They probe gently. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done. When an idea isn’t feasible, they always take the time to explain why.

Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued — and appreciated.

6. A real sense of connection.

Every employee works for a paycheck (otherwise they would do volunteer work), but every employee wants to work for more than a paycheck: They want to work with and for people they respect and admire–and with and for people who respect and admire them.

That’s why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if an employee needs any help — those moments are much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations.

A true sense of connection is personal. That’s why exceptional bosses show they see and appreciate the person, not just the worker.

7. Reliable consistency.

Most people don’t mind a boss who is strict, demanding, and quick to offer (not always positive) feedback, as long as he or she treats every employee fairly.

(Great bosses treat each employee differently but they also treat every employee fairly. There’s a big difference.)

Exceptional bosses know the key to showing employees they are consistent and fair is communication: The more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume unfair treatment or favoritism.

8. Private criticism.

No employee is perfect. Every employee needs constructive feedback. Every employee deserves constructive feedback. Good bosses give that feedback.

Great bosses always do it in private.

9. Public praise.

Every employee — even a relatively poor performer — does something well. Every employeedeserves praise and appreciation. It’s easy to recognize some of your best employees because they’re consistently doing awesome things. (Maybe consistent recognition is a reason they’re your best employees? Something to think about.)

You might have to work hard to find reasons to recognize an employee who simply meets standards, but that’s okay: A few words of recognition–especially public recognition–may be the nudge an average performer needs to start becoming a great performer.

10. A chance for a meaningful future.

Every job should have the potential to lead to greater things. Exceptional bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company.

How can you know what an employee hopes to do someday? Ask.

Employees will only care about your business after you first show you care about them. One of the best ways is to show that while you certainly have hopes for your company’s future, you also have hopes for your employees’ futures. – Jeff Haden

Random Acts of Recognition – Motivating your Team Regularly

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At a company I once worked for, I once received a card in the mail, handwritten by the president, stating something like “In our leadership meetings, I have heard many times the great work you are doing for the team.” There was a token gift along with the card as well. But to me, the card meant more than any jackpot I had won – it boosted my confidence, morale, and motivation, made me happy, and more than anything – made me realize that the work I was putting in, was meaningful.

One of the least recognized ways to motivate people is.. recognizing them on a timely basis! Not via formally established processes or competitively, not at the end of the quarter or year, but truly for what they have done at any given point. Not a measure, but simply a recognition.

To give a runner’s analogy – think of recognition as water as you run a long distance – you need it on a regular interval to keep going, and not simply at the end. More importantly, every runner needs water to keep going, not just the ones who are ahead. Of course, you will award the winner the prize, but you need water for everyone to keep running.

In keeping the recognition random, without much tangible benefits, and with no formality, you are not asking for a change in performance, but truly rewarding the person for the work done. Also, given the randomness, it doesn’t encourage others to alter their performance just to win the award.

Most importantly, it costs almost nothing, and yet the benefits and impacts to the individual, team, and the company are numerous – almost too many to list.

Here are some tips to institute random acts of recognition in your workplace:

  • Have a generic name for the award or no name at all. Let it reflect the work for which the person is being recognized and not some “Hero of the week.”
  • Don’t create a process around it – like taking votes, or having people suggest on a weekly basis. Instead, keep a open-door policy on people to suggest. No specific timelines – and as the name suggests, keep it random.
  • Don’t set a criteria – it should be random that people don’t gear up to be competitive to win the next round of recognition. It can be for someone who brought in a huge deal, or someone who helped out in mailing holiday envelops. Remember, this is recognition, and not an award. By doing this, you also send a message that little things, and not just big things, matter to the company.
  • Base it on inputs from the teams – If you are the manager, you can choose whom to recognize based on what you see and hear from teams. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that your team values you.
  • Keep it simple and genuine – and if there is a token prize, keep it the same for any level of recognition. And, the token prize should be just that, a token. So, cookies – yes, golf clubs – no. And even a simple “good job!” would do.
  • Hand-write your note – the art of writing notes is fast disappearing. By writing a small note of recognition, you communicate to the employees that you do value their contribution, by taking time to write.
  • Make it public – even if you send a note, follow-up in an email to employees on who were recognized. Acknowledge it as if it were a formal award. And, if physical proximity allows, also follow-up in person or even a quick phone call.
  • Let it come from the leadership. Doing so, makes it feel contribution being recognized at higher levels.
  • Don’t make it feel competitive. The fundamental idea is to recognize people for things they do, and not compare people for the often different types of work they do. Have multiple “winners” if you’d like.
  • Keep it random, which means no schedules, no formality, no set number of winners, and so on. Have it regularly, but randomly. – Manohar Kamath