The theme of gratitude has come up a lot in my day today.
Actually, it all started yesterday, when a “big kid” (i.e., a third grader) kicked my first grader’s ball up onto the roof of the school. This caused a fair amount of distress for my son, who was very attached to his ball, seeing as how he is a compulsive wall ball player these days. School had already let out, but together we went inside to find the custodian, who gruffly told us he couldn’t possibly get the ball down right then, but would try to get to it by the end of the week.
Those of you who have lived with small children can probably imagine the storm of tears this pronouncement evoked, but I thanked the custodian—who I know quite well, and coaxed my distraught seven-year-old home, while trying to explain such grown-up concepts as “union regulations,” “overtime” and “being careful not to overburden custodians, because we’re terribly, terribly dependent on them.”
Lo and behold, an hour later, a friend dropped by with the magical ball, saying the custodian had gone up on his ladder soon after we left.
So this morning, before heading off to school, my son (who honestly is one of the nicest people I know, but don’t get me started on the merits of my own offspring) made a really, really sweet (oops, there I go again) thank you note for the custodian. And when we got to school, said son ran inside and raced up and down the hallways looking for the custodian, who opened it and got just a wee bit moist eyed as he realized that, yes, he was being thanked for doing a good deed.
Half an hour later, as I settled into a weekly staff meeting with one of my non-profit clients, the director started off with a surprising confession. “I’m realizing I don’t say thank you enough,” she began, looking each of us in the eyes, one by one. “But I just want you to know that I can’t believe how well our skill sets work together and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. Each one of you is incredibly valuable to this organization—I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
It was an incredibly effective statement. Not only was I now getting a little weepy myself, but suddenly I felt like I would fall on my sword for this woman—or at least I would pump out copy until I fell, in a stupor, on the keyboard of my laptop.
In the hustle and bustle of our daily work worlds, it’s hard to remember to say thank you’s—not only for the big stuff (like getting a report finished, fixing a computer problem, or analyzing the pricing structure of new wood floors) but the little stuff (like keeping a website running, soothing a ruffled customer, or getting a ball off the roof). But those thank you’s do a lot for your team members. They end up feeling appreciated. They end up feeling effective. And they end up feeling more inspired–all of which go toward making your teams stronger, tighter, and more harmonious.
Today’s homework: Find three people to thank today—whether it’s for being cheerful or spearheading a new marketing campaign, making coffee every morning or investigating a new loan for the business. Watch their reaction as you express your gratitude. And know that you’re helping them do a better job and be more satisfied employees.
Next up: How being more grateful can make you happier, too.