How do you express gratitude to the people you work with. Do you?

In my corporate career I would say “thank you” walking out of a meeting or during a performance review discussion. But I never took the time to write a thank you note. Recently I got one from an executive coaching client and it made my day. I realized how big a difference a small thank you note can make.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I gave myself the challenge of writing three thank you notes this week.

Here’s what I discovered. They are easy to write (see below). They made me stop and notice what I value in others. The very act of pausing to ask myself what I appreciated in others helped me feel great.

And if these aren’t reasons enough, know that it will help you build more connection and engagement with any team member you work with. Two of Gallup’s 12 employee engagement survey questions are related to expressing appreciation: “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” and “Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?”. In his Harvard Business Review cover article former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, likens loneliness and weak social connections to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of impact on lifespan.

Here’s my challenge to us for the Thanksgiving holidays. Pick three people at work to send heart-felt thank you notes to. Here’s how.

First, ask yourself who is someone you’re particularly grateful for at work. For a note that builds connection, you have to get yourself in a state of gratitude first.

Second, use the following set of questions to help you pause and notice what you appreciate:

  • What have I observed this person doing well?
  • What contributions has this person made to me, our team, or organization?
  • What is an interaction I had with this person that impressed or touched me?
  • What are some qualities of character that I appreciate about this person?
  • What have I learned from this person? How does this serve me?

Third, as you write your gratitude letter, be specific and make it personal. Describe a specific example, situation, or conversation.

As an example, here’s one of the three thank-you letters I wrote this week. This one is to an executive coaching client.

“Hi Ann –

I hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving break with your daughters.

I am sitting back and reflecting about our conversations, and I want to share with you how grateful I am for our time spent together. Despite all that is going on for you (in your personal life with your husband’s surgery) and at work (with the complexity of Project X), you have shown up and been present. You are curious, and open to learning about yourself, and share yourself with vulnerability. This takes great courage. I enjoy the humor you bring to your challenges.

I also appreciate how you challenge and grow yourself. From someone who was apprehensive about getting 360-feedback, you have moved to a place of sharing this with your boss. This takes great courage and expanding trust in yourself and others. I hope you are noticing the progress you’re making in your ability to be more mindful and intentional about “who you want to be now” in your leadership, so you lead with greater self-awareness in each moment.

I am truly grateful for the moments of laughter and learning. Our work together helps me live into my own leadership purpose of connecting people with their own authenticity & potential.”

So, how about it? Will you take on this challenge? Will you share it with others in your workplace to create a more grateful, engaged, connected, and appreciative team? Will you take on the challenge of making this a weekly ritual? Imagine what could be possible in our workplaces if we call did that!

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