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Leadership Mistake Six: Forgetting to Say Thank You

This lesson is a part of an audio course Leadership Lessons from Your Followers by Andy Edwards

Following on from the failure to give specific positive or constructive feedback, this failure is often isolated as a version of feedback too often missing from a leader's behavior…

Failing to appreciate/give credit for individual and collective effort and say "Thank you".

Yes – simple appreciation.

Failure here will create in your followers a lack of confidence, validation, and camaraderie. In studies, commendation and appreciation are counted way above salary as a motivational factor. If not validated, team members will feel less appreciated and so will give less back, dropping to the lowest acceptable work ethic which will be just enough to avoid a telling off! Many will simply leave.

I was discussing this with a Finance Director, and he said, "I pay them well to do a job… why do I need to thank them as well?"

Bear in mind that I was originally called in to help them retain staff, as their staff churn was nearly double the national average for their industry!

I told him that it was his choice, but that if I worked with him, I would love there to be a prevailing culture of gratitude, appreciation, and validation.

His final attempt NOT to agree was, "Sounds a bit needy." I nodded…

"In the same way, followers need a salary, appropriate working conditions, job satisfaction – none of which you would disagree with. And, as soon as you recognize that it is just as valid to need acknowledgment, praise, and approval, your staff turnover figures will improve no end."

But be careful to get it right for the individual!

When dishing out "thank you's", make sure you work with the preference of the individual. Some will delight in your loud and very public admiration. Others will desperately hope you never do that to them and would much prefer a quiet word when no one else is around.

Of course, and depending on your own workplace environment, you can have all kinds of rewards and awards (individual and team) for doing well. Just be sure you are not side-lining one group or department in favor of another.

Don't let the shortness of this lesson belie the importance of this potential leadership failure.

I know I said that you must ensure not to fail in ALL SEVEN of these leadership failures. However, if you only do one of them, then this is the one that is a) the easiest to do and b) will have the most disproportionate positive impact. But, do recognize that, if the other failures haven't been addressed, even this one will be met with suspicion and skepticism… so it really is best to address them all.

Ensure that your new-found culture of mutual appreciation is highly tangible. It needs to be "real". Do whatever works for you and YOUR followers: buy everyone pizza on Friday, take everyone out for a beer or prosecco, turn up with donuts and make the tea!

Never be disingenuous with your praise but, whenever you can catch people doing things right. and say "Well done", "I appreciate this…", "THANK YOU!"

A simple task for you here: tomorrow, or as soon as you find yourself in an appropriate situation, simply say thank you to someone. You might even combine it with the lesson you learned about giving specific positive feedback, but sometimes simple appreciation validates and supports a team member at its most basic level. Thank you!

So, are you ready to move to our final leadership failure? Failure seven covered in the next lesson is the failure to be visible as a leader.

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Written by

Andy Edwards