Some of you are a couple months in to the 2017 Leadership Challenge and on your way to positive, proactive, results-oriented leadership. Kudos for your commitment! Some of you may just be learning of this challenge for the first time -- welcome -- it's not too late to participate. Our mantra: Just Start!
This month's challenge is related to increasing recognition through creating a habit of handwriting Thank You Notes. For those of you who already have created this habit, then adjust this challenge to refresh and re-inspire this great habit (....some ideas for that are in the latter part of this blog). For those of you who haven't created a consistent habit of this, you may be thinking......handwritten notes are so "out of date," or "my handwriting is awful," or "I don't have time," or a host of other excuses as to why this challenge or habit wouldn't be for you.
Please set these barriers (....excuses) aside for this month's challenge! Why? Because only then can you and others gain the benefits of this recognition practice. As the writer of these notes, you will enjoy a boost of positivity in your day that comes from the act of writing a thank you note. For the receivers, they will obviously enjoy the benefit of these acts of acknowledgement as they read (and share with others) the special note from you.
Over the years, I have received such reaffirming feedback regarding the impact of a simple thank you note. I refer to this feedback as my “Thank you for the thank you note” stories. These stories range from “your note came just at the right time when I needed to hear something positive,” to “your note was life-changing.”
Incorporating gratitude, recognition, and appreciation into your normal routine through thank you notes is actually quite simple and inexpensive. Yet, we often encounter leaders who struggle with creating a habit of gratitude. Often because leaders don’t stick to it long enough to start harvesting their own “thank you for the thank you note stories.” These stories inspire leaders to continue this practice.
Impactful thank you notes start with engaging your heart in the practice. It is not a task to check off your to-do list. It is a leadership practice that is heartfelt. So, engage your heart (and your pen!) in Challenge #3:
MARCH - Recognition! Start each day by reflecting on the positives of yesterday. Which employees, peers, or bosses can your recognize for "above and beyond" behavior, performance or contributions? Or, who is making progress toward a positive change? Start every day you work by writing a thank you note. And then, mail it to the employee's home.
Maybe you've already been in the habit of writing thank you notes or you want some additional ideas to elevate this practice. If so, consider these suggestions as your version of this month's challenge:
- Change up the target audience of your thank you notes to include sending thank you notes to the family members of your employees, to employees outside of your own department or division, your boss, your peers, or to people who made an impact on your life or career (even if it was decades ago).
- Be more impactful in what you are writing in your thank you notes by: 1) being very specific about the behavior, action, or attribute you are thankful for; 2) noting the positive impact of the behavior, action, or attribute; and 3) connecting the dots to the high standards that are displayed in the behavior, action, or attribute. For example:
"Hello John, When I was talking with Mr. Jones, a patient you recently cared for, he mentioned to me how you took the time necessary to provide him with information on his new medications. He felt like he truly understood why these medications were ordered, his instructions for taking them at home, and what side affects to watch for. This will likely lead him to be more compliant and therefore gain the intended benefits of these medications. Thank you for upholding our high standards for patient education and optimal patient outcomes. Sincerely, Sue"
- Start looking in new places for those behaviors, actions, or attributes to recognize. Do you seek out recognition opportunities through the practice of rounding? Could you go on a "positivity walk" in which your sole purpose is to "catch people doing things right!" Could you talk with your customers and ask them who is deserving of recognition?
- Think about recognition for behaviors or actions that aren't "above and beyond." Why? If you've been coaching an employee to make a specific improvement in their behavior or performance, and you see evidence that they are making an effort to improve, recognition is a key action that will keep them on the path of improvement. Or, if a recent change has had a big impact on the work that employees do, they will benefit by being recognized for their efforts to adjust to this change. You noticed the opportunity to improve or change. Now you need to notice, and recognize, the improvement or willingness to change. Don't just recognize them when they achieved the improvement or mastered the change - recognize them along the way.
Positivity in the workplace may feel like the "soft stuff" of leadership. Yet, intuitively you know that it is hard (impossible?) to create extraordinary results in a work culture in which positivity and appreciation are not flourishing. It is difficult to engage a team to go on to winning results if they feel unappreciated. Wishing you much success as your create or elevate the practice of writing thank you notes. Just Start!
Thanks for reading! If you'd like more information on the topic of Recognition, Celebration, and Appreciation, get a copy of our book, The Employee Experience: A Capstone Guide to Peak Performance. Cheers! Sue