|| Print ||
|Friday, May 24, 2013|
BY TOM COX | BUSINESS TIPS CONTRIBUTOR
One of my most popular articles is “Three Steps to Writing a Perfect Thank You Note." If you already write thank-you notes regularly, it’s a great reminder of the basics. For the rest of us who don’t, it provides a simple checklist that lets us dramatically increase the likelihood we’ll offer thanks in writing — and in the process, we’ll discover we’re making huge investments in our relationships. Here’s a fresh take on the topic, with some guidance on avoiding common errors.
Thank-You Notes Matter
Written thank-you notes matter. A lot. One of the management thinkers I most admire is Mark Horstman of Manager Tools. On a recent visit he confided that he keeps every written thank-you note he’s ever gotten. Whenever he gets down or feels the need for inspiration, he re-reads a few. What a great way to use the thank-you notes we get. What a great reminder of how powerful it is to send them.
Own Your Impact
To be a good leader, you need to be effective and intentional about the way you make other people feel. Whatever impact you end up making, you should do it on purpose. Or as the saying goes, “a well bred person never hurts anybody… accidentally.” When you step up to being a CEO or a leader, you need to master the basics. Look people in the eye. Shake their hand firmly. Listen like they’re the most important person in the world at that moment. Feel, and then show, sincere appreciation. However it’s easy when you’re new at this to do it badly. If your thank-you seems insincere, you can seem manipulative. That’s bad — it undermines the relationship you’re trying to build.
Sincerity is crucial. Stop and really notice what you’re grateful for. One of my most common pieces of advice to CEOs and aspiring managers is, end each day by writing down your victories and at least one thing for which you are grateful. I call this your Victory Journal:
When you feel honestly grateful, you can share that feeling honestly. Sadly, most of us aren’t practicing gratitude. We end the day looking at our to-do list and focusing on what we didn’t do. We focus on the extra work of tomorrow, caused by what went wrong today. Therefore, cultivate a mindset of sincere appreciation. A few years ago in Beaverton I got such consistently great service at one restaurant on three different visits, that I finally insisted on seeing the manager. Turns out he was a traveling restaurant trouble-shooter who makes his living by boosting service. He was obviously very good. I asked him his secrets. Here’s one: “I honestly appreciate it when people show up for their shifts, and I express it. I’m enthusiastic, appreciative, and grateful,” he said. But… you pay them to show up. Isn’t that enough? Why make a big deal of it? (My clients say this sort of silly thing all the time — I was dying to hear his response.) “No, paying them isn’t enough. Many times I’ve had to scramble to cover a shift, when someone didn’t show up. When you show up, I don’t have to do that, and remembering it makes it easy for me to be sincere in my appreciation,” he said. I pressed him further and he admitted he deliberately cultivated this mindset. ”Ultimately, how I treat them in the back of the restaurant, is how they’ll treat you in the front.” I once helped a new manager avoid being fired in his first 90 days. He didn’t think any of his people did things right. He focused on their mistakes, and it quickly hurt morale. His boss and I gave him an assignment — to deliberately notice one thing each day that each of his people was doing right. He had to write it down and share it with us both via email — the date, time, location, person, and exactly what behavior he observed. He struggled for three weeks, and finally got the hang of it — and it dramatically improved his rapport with his staff. Cultivate the mindset of gratitude. Notice good things. Only when you notice them, can you appreciate them.
Specificity Breeds Credibility
Here’s a bad thank-you — one that can easily be interpreted as insincere:
Even if the recipient believes you, they don’t know what they did right, because you don’t say. Vague praise comes across as insincere. Here’s the outline for a perfect thank-you note.
Three Sincere Sentences
A sincere thank-you will make these three points, in this order:
Here’s how to make each point.
Start by anchoring the thank-you with the event and by reminding them of their behavior, by describing it from your perspective. These should almost always involve one or more of the five senses. Sight and hearing are most common in business, but all of them can work.
Examples – “Last Tuesday at the Rotary lunch, you met me at the door with a firm handshake, and you looked me in the eye and smiled.” Or, “Yesterday I got to watch as my son opened the present you sent him.” Note – you cannot fake the observation. If someone is uncomfortable with being praised — or if they doubt your sincerity — a weak or vague Observation sentence will give them the opening to discount the entire thank-you, and maybe discount your leadership.
Here you must build on the Observation and explain what impact their action had (on you or on someone else). I typically use the word “feel” when describing impact, though any outcome or result is fine. Examples – “You really made me feel welcome.” Or, “I wish you could have seen their smiles.”
Express your sincere feeling of gratitude. If you can, look deep into the other person and find the character trait that underlies their action. Start with “generosity” and see if you can find some other word that’s even more appropriate. This is the place where you say “thank you.” Examples – “Your Rotary is fortunate to have so warm-hearted a member as you, and I’m grateful to have your friendship.” Or, “I know the kids appreciate how loving and caring you are – as do I.”
In these examples, the key elements are highlighted.
Yesterday you gave me so many ideas and so much feedback that I filled three pages with notes and I’ve listened twice to the audio recording I made of the meeting. As a result of your input I know I’ll be doing a better job on my proposal — I’m making all three of the changes you suggested, including restructuring the white paper. I’m grateful to have someone so generous as you helping me – thank you.
I’m still smiling at the memory of your workshop yesterday — I was amazed to see everyone still on the edge of their seats after four hours. They and I will be handling customer requests very differently now, thanks to your ideas and the drills you ran us through. Your dedication to our improvement is greatly appreciated — thank you.
Thank you for bringing us cookies yesterday — they were delicious. Sara said she had never tasted anything as good, and we had to lock half of them away to avoid finishing them all off in one sitting. Your skills as a cook are exceeded only by your generosity as a friend. Thanks.
This morning I noticed your timecard was once again the first one turned in, with no errors. You’ve been flawless in your time reporting for 13 pay periods. Since even small errors take time to correct (and we average 1 error per 3 cards), I estimate you’ve saved my team about 3 hours of work over the past few months. Everyone on my team appreciates your diligence and attention to detail. Thanks.
Tom Cox is a Portland area consultant and executive coach. He helps leaders exceed their business aspirations.
Monday, July 14, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER
Some people think Amazon’s winking eye logo is starting to look like a hoodwink.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
Tom Cox interviews Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.
Friday, June 27, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER
Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Remember the naysayers? Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle? Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR
Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.
Monday, July 14, 2014
BY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE
I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.
|The Private 150: Bigger But Leaner|
|The Perfect Food|
|Taxis Uber Alles?|
|Powerlist: Staffing Firms|
|U.S. economy grew by 4% in Q2|
|Twitter Q2 revenue surges|
|Pfizer results beat estimates|
|Study: Running reduces risk of death|
|Zillow to acquire Trulia for $3.5B|
|Dollar Tree to buy Family Dollar|
|Facebook revenue surges 61%|
Vigilant enters a New Year with a new president.
How George Fox has become one of Oregon's largest private universities.
Forest Grove sees growth in the burgeoning food and beverage scene.
Lane Powell Shareholder Susan K. Eggum has been elected as vice chair of programs and projects for the International Association of Defense Counsel’s (IADC’s) Employment Law Committee.
Geffen Mesher is saddened to announce the passing of long-time shareholder, Tom “Mike” Anderson, who died on July 10, 2014, from liver disease diagnosed after recent heart surgery. He was 55 years old.
Fifteen Lane Powell attorneys have been named 2014 “Oregon Super Lawyers,” and another five attorneys have been named as “Oregon Rising Stars” by Super Lawyers magazine.