“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
Having arrived earlier than anticipated for a planning meeting, I stopped by the hotel café and ordered an herbal tea. It was between lunch and dinner and over at the next table, the manager was holding a meeting with the waitstaff and kitchen help. If you have heard me speak, you know eavesdropping is my superpower.
What impressed me the most about the manager wasn’t the detailed list of corrections and suggestions he read off from his clipboard. What overwhelmed me was how, at the end of the meeting (and I know this sounds corny), he looked each employee in the eye, spoke their name, and said: “I want you to know how much I appreciate you. I know you have a choice every day where you show up and serve, and you choose to be here.”
Then, he either shook their hand, high fived or hugged them making me assume the action was based on their individual preference. The staff appeared warm and receptive to his words and touch. Right now, given “The Great Resignation” and the struggle to find and keep staff on board, his display of appreciation spoke volumes.
The Power of a Compliment
We are in a society where the typical response to a “thanks” is either a passing, “no problem” or an emoji. Even the trite “Have a nice day,” has lost its meaning. It comes down to gratitude.
Another true story. I observed an employee meeting at a huge hardware “box store.” The store manager, a tough guy who looked as though he could bend a steel pipe with his hands, climbed a ladder and as he began his talk, his voice shook with tenderness as his eyes welled up with tears.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I get so busy; I don’t thank you enough for how great you’re all doing. I notice how careful you are to follow safety measures, look up and smile at our customers and even walk them to find a specific product. But noticing is not enough. I need to be sharing my observations with you.”
If we don’t make appreciation memorable, if compliments don’t carry meaning, they are no more than words. On the other hand, it has been proven that there is power in an earnest compliment.
According to The Harvard Business Review, (February 24, 2021), it has been shown that “Expressing praise and gratitude is particularly important for keeping up morale.”
Though we might be afraid to give a coworker a heartfelt compliment, in fact, we are indeed remembered, as Maya Angelou stated, for how we made them feel.
David Robson, writing for the BBC (July 27, 2021) underscored that giving out a heartfelt compliment to a co-worker is neither silly nor patronizing and in fact, there is documented proof that authentic compliments work: “Three new studies on the psychology of compliment giving and receiving suggest that our fears about the ways our praise will be received are completely unfounded. And by letting go of that awkwardness, we could all enjoy better relationships with our friends, family members and colleagues.”
Make Your Appreciation Memorable
In my programs, I teach that there are three steps to make our appreciation for others memorable.
- Specificity. Generic gestures or words fall flat. What would you remember after busting your butt on a project? A supervisor who says, “Wow! Way to go!” or one who states, “The extra effort you put into this project showcases your dedication, focus and ability to innovate as a team under a serious time crunch.” How about one who takes it a step further and also emails a Starbucks gift card that says, “Please take a few moments during the workday to reflect on your success while enjoying your favorite beverage (which, if memory serves, is an iced caramel macchiato with one pump of white mocha).”
- Speediness: Close the gap between the action and appreciation. Telling the sales team something like, “I’ve been so busy with stuff, I forgot to thank you guys how impressed I was with your presentation to that new client a month ago,” is similar to a “By the way,” compliment delivered three months late. “By the way, the July 4th BBQ you guys worked so hard to put on, was a big hit with the folks in the executive suite.”
- Sincerity. Be authentic. An insincere thank you will come across like that bowl of tuna salad someone leaves on a counter in the breakroom over a three-day weekend. Please take the time to be sincere. If you truly don’t feel it, don’t do it, as trust will erode.
Thank Those Closest
Whether a handwritten “Thank You” note (and yes, there are still those who do!), a gift card, or a warm telephone call, gratitude shouldn’t be shown “just” to those who are in a position to offer us promotions, perks and benefits. Gratitude is contagious and its ripples spread far and wide.
Remember to show gratitude to those who touch our lives professionally, from that co-worker whose emails are to the point and written with care to the physician’s assistant in our doctor’s office who went out of her way to explain a procedure.
Let’s not forget our family, friends and neighbors who are there for us. It’s so easy to take them for granted. And, while, we may hug them at Thanksgiving, showing those closest to us gratitude – most any day, simply because is a treasured gift.
Finally, please don’t neglect your precious self. Sometimes – many times – we are so busy helping others, giving of ourselves to others, sacrificing for others, we forget to pay attention to our need for nurturing and gratitude.
Whether you consciously went out of your way to turn down a big piece of chocolate cake or you want to reward yourself for making a tough decision, give yourself credit. You deserve it.
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