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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Two Words Can Change a Culture

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Have you thought or said these words: “it’s their job to do that. I shouldn’t need to say ‘thank you”?

I would challenge you to think, do we only say “thank you” if others go above and beyond or could we instead choose to be overly generous with our appreciation?

Andy Stanley recently aired a podcast episode on this very concept. The Power of “Thank You”. He brilliantly noted that forgetting these two powerful words sends the message that “I could have done this without you.” We would never have said that, but that is what people feel.

So how does one create a genuine culture of gratitude? “Genuine” is the key. It is not rainbows and false gracious comments. It is the creation of relationships and awareness that others’ contributions and hard work advance not only the team but also our own success. Without acknowledgment of these small acts, they will not be repeated.

Showing gratitude and taking the time to pause, slow down, and recognize the impact of others may come more naturally to some than others. That is ok. It does not have to feel natural; it only has to be present. To some, this may require planning and intentionality, which does not diminish its sincerity.

Andy points out that to have a big impact, gratitude should have three elements:

  1. Specificity: speak directly about the effort or activity that you are appreciative toward. The more detail, the better.

  2. Be honest: Highlight behavior that you genuinely would like repeated. False praise will be obvious to others and will diminish trust.

  3. Go public: Your words are powerful and motivating to others. Public acknowledgment makes the recipient feel good and sends a broader message of appreciation and attention.

Tactical steps to integrating and fostering a habit of gratitude?

  • Thank you notes: I don’t care if you are young or old, we all love a handwritten letter of appreciation. Not only does it point out the obvious by highlighting a specific act or behavior you are thankful for, but it also shows that you intentionally made time for the other person. An invaluable message. Keep a stack on your desk, so this stays top of mind, or schedule time each week to send 3-4 personalized notes.

  • Ask a colleague to remind you. Again, partnering with someone to remind you to call out the actions of others makes it no less genuine. Make sure you begin meetings with a “shout out” to someone who positively impacted the team in a big way or little. It is not so much about the act but about the acknowledgment of the person and the time they took to build success.

  • Sticky note: Again, remind yourself that this is a new habit you wish to create and make a priority.

Everyone wins with an offering of gratitude. Pay it forward, and it is destined to continue and be repeated. It is not manipulative if coming from a place of humility, grace, and focus.

Why do I say “focus”, because the focus is the difference between platitude and genuinely caring? Slow down, stop what you are doing, pause, look them in the eye, and say, “thank you”. A moment like that resonates so deeply and creates a ripple effect that will influence the culture of your entire organization.

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