Leaders Write Thank You Notes

By Kevin on December 12, 2010 in Success

Notice in the title I said write thank you notes (not “send”) as in hand-write on stationary. Many, many leaders like Tom Peters, Jack Welch and Harvey Mackay frequently speak of the power of saying thanks, the old fashioned way—and it has worked miracles for me as well.

In addition to just being good old fashioned manners, recognition is one of the top three drivers of engagement. Who should you want to be engaged with you? How about employees, customers, partners, suppliers—in other words, everyone.

In this day and age of ultra-short text messages, 140 character tweets, 200 emails a day, hand written thank you notes stand out more than ever before. The note cards we receive are way more meaningful than verbal or email acknowledgement. Notes become our souvenirs of recognition, accomplishment and connection to the person who sent it. We pin them up on our cube walls, lean them against or monitors, and eventually put them in that special drawer that keeps our special keepsakes.

I once had a company that existed inside a holding company that supplied our overhead services (e.g., HR, accounting, IT). One exercise I introduced at our quarterly all-hands meetings was to distribute note cards and ask every single employee to write out at least one card. It could be to anyone, and often when to other employees or customers. But several people would invariable write out a note thanking someone in the IT department for fixing their laptop, or to someone in accounting for running a custom report. The internal services people were blown away by this simple act of gratitude and I always thought it was one of the reasons why we seemed to get a little bit better service than our sibling divisions.

Written notes mean so much than email because of the time it takes to write them. It’s the same reason Hallmark (or other) cards mean something on our special occasions. Although not as nice as an originally crafted message, we know that our spouse had to at least remember to get the card, travel to the store, sift through dozens of options, stand in line to pay $5 bucks for the card, and hopefully (hopefully!) write a few extra lines of love on the inside.

In our hyper-busy lives it’s easy to push off or forget this act of giving thanks. Some tips:

1) Keep a stack of thank you notes and envelopes right on top of your desk

2) Keep a stack of thank you notes with you as you travel, just keep an envelope with them in your brief case or laptop bag

3) Form the habit of ending everyday by writing at least one thank you note. If you ‘re in your office it’s easy enough to reflect on the day for a 15 seconds and then to spend one minute writing out a note before you head out the door. If you’re traveling it can be even easier to write out a note as you are waiting at the airport or waiting for your dinner to show up at your table.

4) If you really don’t have time, just scrawl THANK YOU and nothing more. These two simple words, written by your own hand and sent with a stamp will mean more than 50 words sent via email

So now it’s your turn. Have you ever received a thank you card that was extra special? Have you ever sent one and gotten an amazing response?


Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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