Thanking Like You Mean It

November 22, 2022

by Stephen T. Messenger

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

-William Arthur Ward

This week, I was briefly tempted to take last year’s Thanksgiving article and repost it. I wanted to do this for two reasons:

1. It’s one of my favorites

2. I would have this week’s article wrapped up early

However, I knew that if I did that, I would be shortchanging not the readers, but myself. I owe myself the opportunity to reflect on gratitude and truly understand how I am and am not thankful. I truly hope you also spend some time thinking about this.

The above quote by William Arthur Ward really hit me. I’m pretty good at genuinely thanking people… unless I think about it. How many presents have I wrapped that are still sitting in my closet?

Failure is delay but not defeat.”

-William Arthur Ward

A few weeks ago, as I was walking into a meeting, I was handed a note. It was a formal thank you letter to one of our amazing employees, written by an important person much higher up in our organization located in another location. I was asked to present this to him.

I read the letter quickly, wasn’t quite sure what the accomplishment was about, and, knowing the gentleman was sitting in the room, decided to go ahead and give it to him right then.

Well, I failed. I asked him to stand up from a seat near the back, fumbled through describing his really important contributions to the team, quickly handed him the letter in the corner, and shook his hand. Then he left. It was underwhelming to say the least.

Well, this weighed on me. While I gave the wrapped present, I never truly recognized this stellar employee. I realized I went through the motions of thanking him, but I never really thanked him.

After going to his office a few days later, I privately apologized and gave more meaningful thanks. To his great credit, he was gracious and understanding. But I let him know what I now vow to do: next time I’m not just going to give someone something, I’m going to thank them.

My plan is to carve out time before the meeting and have the high performing employee come to my office. We’ll talk about their accomplishments and connect on a personal level. I’ll thank them in private and truly understand the nature of their contribution. Then we’ll walk into the meeting together, and I’ll thank them in public; they do, of course, deserve to be thanked publicly.

This will be more of a personal connection, and not an impersonal exchange.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

 –William Arthur Ward

Ward has this right. When done correctly, gratitude is a powerful leadership tool. When done poorly like I did, gratitude is a “check the box” moment, and most people watching realize this.

There are so many things to be thankful for as a leader. I once heard a pastor suggest this line when it comes to a spouse: “If you see something good, say something good.” It applies to work as well.

The Dale Carnegie Training Center claims our praise to criticism ratio should be about 5:1. This means five positive or thankful messages for every one correction or rebuke. I know I can be better at increasing my ratio with positive comments to my wife, my children, and the people I work with.

Sitting here reflecting, I can think of countless times I’ve missed an opportunity to thank people. As Ward states, I’ve missed opportunities to bring my team thanksgivings, joys, and blessings.

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”

–William Arthur Ward

I encourage you, and me, this thanksgiving—along with the rest of the year—to increase your gratitude levels in both quality and quantity. Your people are doing great things. When was the last time you told them?

Lead well and be grateful! Happy Thanksgiving! 

I am glad I didn’t mail-in this week’s article and recycle from last Thanksgiving. It’s tempting to be passive when it comes to leadership. The best leaders are active. I encourage you to keep reading, thinking, discussing, and writing about leadership all the time. It’s the only way to get better! 

Subscribe above to join The Maximum Standard community. There is no cost and no ads, just a weekly email to help us all get better at leading!

Finally, I highly recommend Thanksgiving Article 2021:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: