7 December 2019
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Why thank you are the two hardest words!

One of the great revelations of being the owner of a business is that your success hinges not only upon your leadership ability but also on the quality of the people with whom you work. It has always impressed me when I’ve attended business award ceremonies that the winning CEO is quick to thank his team for making the operation a standout-from-the-crowd, best-of-breed business.

One of the skills you have to master is to recruit the right people. Time teaches you that hiring for attitude over aptitude often makes sense. Of course, if you get both, then you’re a real winner but that’s easier wished for rather than achievable.

Creating positivity and harmony in the workplace can’t be underestimated. Failure to do so embeds a negativity that can KO any aspirations you might have for great productivity and beautiful bottom line results.

There are many potential problems that a great leader has to identify and beat but one that can infect the attitude of both employees and managers, as well as founders, is a lack of appreciation. This is a huge problem, not only in businesses but also in families, so getting rid of this obstacle to inter-human happiness and business or family success should be a high priority for all of us.

My favourite US leadership speaker and author, John Maxwell, talks about the five levels of leadership, and appreciation plays an important role in his analysis of why people want to follow great leaders.

On the first level, people follow you because you’re the boss and you pay them. On the second level, they follow you because they like you. Going higher to the third level, a follower knows you pay them and they like you but they also respect what you have achieved. You’re like a coach with a good winning record.

On the fourth level, all the other stuff applies but they also follow you because they appreciate what you have done for them. You’ve developed them, given them opportunities and, like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, you as a leader have made them want to be a better employee, person, business performer, etc.

When you do all this and you build great organisations and future leaders of other great operations, you approach legendary status, like the likes of Gerry Harvey, John Symond, Richard Branson and Anita Roddick of The Body Shop. Then you’re at level five.

But what has worried me is that this level four status not only relies on what you’ve done for people but also on whether they appreciate it. When staff up and leave after being great employees, you sometimes wonder if they appreciate what you, as a leader, have done for them.

You know that some have, because you feel their sentiment. They don’t want to go but there are good reasons like pregnancy, moving overseas with a loved one or it’s time to start their own business. But some, who you’ve done heaps for, just go and leave you wondering about appreciation.

From my point of view, the number of kick in the pants actions of those we have mentored, grown and invested time as well as money in, have made me look at myself and wonder if I’ve done enough to show that I value the help I’ve received.

So it has got me thinking about why some people can’t show appreciation. It’s clear it needs to be a lesson that we teach to our employees and family.

Work on the subject by the iNLP Centre cited researcher M. Gary Neuman, who says “that 44% of women are emotionally dissatisfied in their romantic relationship. The primary reason? Lack of communication and appreciation.”

But it’s not just a relationship problem, and it’s certainly not just a female one. It’s alive and doing too well inside workplaces. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz found that the majority of workers do not feel appreciated by their company.

This is not only a sad development on a human level, it increases staff turnover and is a productivity killer.

This actually has been proved by the worldwide Towers-Watson study (which I haven’t got room here to explain so you’ll just have to trust me on this).

I didn’t need the philosopher William James to remind me of this but he did put it well when he opined: “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” In my lifetime, I’ve seen a few really good people constantly give to others, only to be kicked in the gut over and over again. The actions of some human beings really leaves me scratching my head. One person even said “If you expect to be thanked, you shouldn’t have given anything in the first place.”

So my very basic question (I can only do basic questions) is: “Why would you want to try and create a great people-based business or family and not make a big song and dance commitment to appreciation?”

US life coach, Mike Bundrant, has given us 5 Steps to Getting the Appreciation You Deserve, which he targeted at women disappointed with their partners, but I think there are lessons here for employers, employees and anyone in a relationship involving those crazy creatures called human beings!

This is what he recommends:

  • Stop pleading. “If you are going to bring about real change, he NEEDS to know you are serious. No more begging for appreciation. No more putting yourself in a one-down position. To get through to him, you’ll need to penetrate layers of false beliefs, bad habits, self-justifications, preoccupations and cluttered thoughts….all the way through to his primitive brain.”
  • Let him know where his current path is taking him…off a cliff. You have to have the hard conversation that the lack of appreciation has to end or you’re out of here.
  • Appreciate yourself instead and stop doing stuff for him and do it for yourself. (I’m probably going to regret writing this!)
  • When he is thoughtful, reward him and don’t try the old “It’s about time.” If you want appreciation you have to show it too.
  • Don’t relax your expectation — play the “I expect appreciation and I will give as good as I get”.

OK, there are some good pointers there (for those women who are disgruntled with a man!) but I still wonder why some people (and this includes women) can’t do what others find so natural — like/love those who give a lot to them.
HuffPost blogger Diane Gottsman explains the psychology and says it could be because:"¨• They are uncomfortable — what could be perceived as a lack of interpersonal skills is sometimes a façade for social anxiety. They’re awkward types and have a confidence issue showing thanks.

  • They are distracted and the oversight is unintentional so it was only a temporary failure to appreciate.
  • They don’t realise your efforts to do something for them.
  • There is unresolved conflict. “When someone feels hostility towards another person, it is difficult to communicate in a positive manner. They believe that acknowledging the other party for any positive act would absolve them from the perceived offence. In their eyes, this person has been disqualified from the general niceties offered to others. If there is an issue, it is better to get it out in the open rather than harbor a grudge. Lacking the capacity to thank someone for their thoughtfulness will breed additional discord,” Gottsman writes.

Tom Hopkins, one of the great US sales coaches of all time, always told his followers that you should write thank-you notes to customers and follow up like never before.

But what he was really telling his sales students was that they needed to not concentrate on the sale but more on the customer. And showing and building a business, a family or a team the notion of the importance of appreciation may be the competitive advantage that explains who wins and loses in business and in life.

Tony Robbins, the highest paid life coach in the world has advised: “Trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly.”

I’m going long appreciation and thanks for reading me and supporting my business, website and media offerings! I’m making “thank you” the easiest words from now on.

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