Everyone likes to feel as if her hard work and good deeds have been appreciated. In this installment of Management Chronicles we discover how the words "thank you" can become a powerful management tool.
"Thanks, Amy, for dropping my package off at the post office yesterday," Marv said as the team's weekly meeting got underway. "Oh, it was nothing," Amy said. "I was going right past there on my way to the station."
Marv disagreed. "It definitely was not nothing. I really had to get that package out yesterday-my mother's birthday is Monday-and the call with the West Coast showed signs of lasting forever. Sometimes, I think they forget it's three hours later here."
"Speaking of not nothing," Jeanie chimed in, looking at Saul, "those eagle eyes of yours to the rescue yet again. That glitch in my code was practically doing handstands trying to get my attention, but I just kept missing it. Thanks for your help."
"Oh, well, you're welcome," Saul said. "Glitch detection is my specialty."
"You know," said Kent, the team's project manager, "hearing the bunch of you reminds me of something a friend of mine mentioned the other day about a technique he learned at a workshop. They call it Appreciations. At the start of a team meeting, people express appreciations to each other for things their teammates did that they appreciate."
"You mean what we just said to each other is actually a technique?" Marv asked.
"Yup," Kent said, grinning. "The idea is that when the heat is on or when we're super busy, we're quick to notice what's going wrong while overlooking the positives. Or if we notice them, we don't comment on them. The point is to take a deliberate time-out from grousing and griping to thank each other for the things that make a difference." Amy looked dubious. "Did you say this is something you do at every team meeting?"
"Not necessarily," Kent said. "It could be once a month. Or when we've reached a milestone. Or when we're about to jump down each other's throat. Or every meeting-if it's something we want to do."
"I don't know," Jeanie said. "It sounds awfully formal-and contrived-as if we're little kids who have to be reminded to say please and thank you."
"Well, I appreciate your making that point," Kent said. Jeanie beamed, pleased to have her observation recognized. Kent paused and then added, "You're right. It can feel formal and contrived. But you didn't seem to mind that I just appreciated you. And that's what it's about. Just taking a few moments to comment on the things that have made it a little easier-or a lot easier-to get through the day."
Kent wasn't surprised to see skeptical looks on several faces. He expected no less from them. "How about we just give it a try? Worst that can happen is we decide it's ridiculous and we don't do it again."
"I'll go first," he continued. "Jake, thanks for yanking my chain when I was about to overcommit you on Phase III."
Jake was mystified. "You're thanking me for yanking your chain?"
"Right you are," Kent responded. "I might not always like having my famous chain yanked, but in that instance, you saved me from announcing a totally unrealistic deadline, so thanks."
"Cool," Jake said. "I save my own butt, and you thank me for it. I like this appreciation thing."
Mike piped up next. "Sue, thanks for giving me those earphones when mine disappeared. If I don't have music blasting through my head, I can't concentrate on my coding."
Sue nodded knowingly. "Me too. Glad to be of service."
Amy again looked uncertain. "I have a question. Can an appreciation be for something really small or even trivial? And does it have to be work related?