As I’m sure is the same for many of you, my parents constantly stressed the importance of one of life’s most valuable lessons; saying please and thank you. I was taught to say please before I asked for something and thank you after I received it. Sounds familiar, right? But if I’m being honest, this was one of my least favorite lessons as a kid. Despite being so simple, somehow it was also so difficult to remember. Then as the years went on and I transitioned into my early leadership roles in the military, I began to notice a weird trend developing. It started to become much easier for me to remember to say please but somehow much harder for me to say thank you. More specifically, I found myself frequently asking for things from those I led but struggling to show gratitude or give thanks once I received what I have asked for…
In the military, I was always put in situations that forced me to rely heavily on those I led. I was responsible for producing results and motivating people to perform at a certain level. The best part was, I was blessed with people who would answer my call and step up and exceed expectations time and time again. But what I failed to realize at the time was that I often took that for granted and failed to make conscious efforts to show gratitude and to thank them for what they did. I was so caught up in making sure everyone was doing their part that I forgot how important it was for me to make sure they felt appreciated.
I’ve come to realize that as leaders we are so often caught up in the moment that we just assume that people will continue to do their part and complete their work and forget that people get burned out, lose motivation and grow frustrated. Paychecks aren’t enough to keep people motivated forever. We forget that simple gestures that show gratitude and thanks can often jumpstart someone’s depleting motivation and sense of purpose. We forget that it’s our responsibility to make sure people understand their worth and that they feel valued. It’s so easy to fall into the fast paced world of leadership where once we’ve completed one task, we just move right on along to the next. As leaders, we get so good at saying please and asking for things from those we lead but we forget the second part to that simple lesson we learned as kids – say thank you.
Now, as I get ready to take the final turn towards completing my master’s degree in leadership, I’ve seen case study after case study of failing company’s who can’t seem to identify why their workforce is underperforming and uninspired. Even with competitive pay and attractive benefits, countless company’s face overwhelming adversity because they are disconnected from their workforce and just can’t seem to understand why. More often than not, it all comes down to a feeling of a lack of gratitude from the workforce as the reason why a company is failing…
Now, some of you reading this will scoff at the idea of people needing to feel appreciated to perform their work because that’s what we pay for, right? Wrong. Regardless of pay or benefits, a basic human need is a sense of belonging and without that, people will not perform or contribute anywhere near their potential. Instead, they will match their performance with your level of appreciation.
If you want those you lead to go above and beyond for you, you must start saying thank you before you say please. It’s time to make people feel valued and appreciated before we ask them to lift a finger. This isn’t just my opinion, this is backed by the coursework and case studies that I have studied in my graduate program and I have seen the results of this application first hand. Today’s workforce is fueled my gratitude and without it, the bare minimum becomes the status quo of performance.
So starting now, start saying thank you before you say please and watch what happens….
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