Friday, 3 May 2013

The two most important words – Thank You!

I read a great article the other day in April’s issue of HBR by Robert Eckert about the two words that he considers most important – thank you! Eckert spent 23 years at Kraft Foods where he started at the bottom and worked his way up through the ranks before moving on to Mattel to become their CEO. During his career, Eckert experienced every layer of organisational life, and recognises that although he worked very hard, he also had a lot of help. The majority of his line managers supported him to develop his career and taught him well. In the process he found himself saying thank you a lot, and as he progressed learned to say thank you even more, because the effect to him was obvious. When he was at Mattel, he set up their Rave Reviews program, which allows employees to recognise and thank one another with a simple e-certificate for a free soft drink or coffee. He also gave out a Chairman’s Award to exceptional senior managers at their most public gatherings. He firmly believes that habits like those above are key to Mattel having been named for six years running as one of Fortune’s Best Companies to work for. Eckert’s top tips are: • Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work. • Handwrite thank you notes whenever you can. The personal touch matters in the digital age. • Punish in private, praise in public. Make the public praise timely and specific. • Remember to cc people’s supervisors. Don’t tell me tell my boss. • Foster a culture of gratitude. It’s a game changer for sustainably better performance. I echo Eckert’s views above. While my own corporate experience is not as significant as his, I have found that the small things can have big effects. My own view is that recognition and rewards have the greatest impact when they are seen as being personal and are not expected (as opposed to a bonus – ‘if you do this you will get that’), and I have added some other tips of my own: • Seek out the good people do – it’s too easy to pick up on what’s not being done well. • Remember a thank you from your boss or your bosses’ boss will have much impact on your staff that one from you. This doesn’t excuse you from saying thank you but to add impact write a thank you letter from your MD or CEO and ask them to sign it. • Use small gifts to recognise people’s efforts. It could be a bacon buttie, cake or bottle of wine. Be creative and make the gift personal. • Consider giving a gift that will remind people of what they did well – a mug for example, or a box of chocolates of half a case of wine. Each time they use their mug, eat a chocolate or open a bottle it will reinforce what it was they were recognised for. To paraphrase Eckert - foster an ‘attitude of gratitude’ - it’s a great way to sustainably improve performance.