When working with young leaders and managers, I often ask them this simple question: What are the two most important leadership words you can ever say on a regular basis? The answers often range from “vision and strategy” to “mission and core values.” While these are great answers, I believe they miss the mark. The two most powerful words are “Thank-you.”
Every day people are working hard to solve problems, to meet expectations and deadlines, and to fulfill goals. Some days they are wrapped up in project management meetings. Most days people come to work early and then stay late.
And what is our response as leaders? Often nothing.
Some leaders say to me, “That’s just their job. Why should I say ‘thank-you’ for doing their job?”
And from that perspective, nothing should be said. Furthermore, from that perspective, anything that was said would not be taken seriously or considered meaningful either.
However, I have witnessed great leaders and great leadership. These individuals know that success does not start with positional leadership. It starts with an understanding that people bring their hearts and minds to work every day. They want to do good. They want to make a difference. They want to make progress.
But depending on what they experience in the work place, they may shelve their hearts and ultimately their minds, and only bring their hands and backs to the work place. These employees learn from what they experience on a daily basis. Genuine respect is not about just what is said, but also what is done.
The foundation for success is to start from a place of humble gratitude for all the effort people are putting in each and every day to do more than just their job description. For those who are working hard, staying late and thinking creatively, we need to say “thank-you.’ For those who are struggling with dysfunctional teams, poorly designed systems, and even worst, poorly written goals, we need to say “thank-you.” And for those who are doing things right plus doing the right things, we need to say “thank-you.”
Leaders get what they exhibit and what they tolerate, noted Kevin Cashman. It is time we exhibit more gratitude and tolerate less dysfunctional behaviors. Otherwise, we will loose our best people and our best opportunities to live up to our mission. The choice is ours to make.