With just 5 cents, you can make a major upgrade to your company culture. And are you ready for the kicker? You don’t even have to spend the five cents. You can keep your money and still get the upgrade. Look in the sofa cushions, grab five pennies, and read on.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of company culture. There’s not a lot of clarity about what company culture means. At The Yes Works, we have a useful definition of culture:
A company’s culture is the set of contagious tendencies of behavior, language, and values common to the people working there.
Want to know the secret to this five-cent/free company culture upgrade? Thank you. No, I am not thanking you for your interest (although, thank you for your interest). That’s the secret. “Thank you,” is the secret.
Thank you is a behavior that reflects the attitude of the thanker and affects the attitudes and the behavior of the thanked and of everyone who overhears the thanks. In an environment of recognition and gratitude, people are engaged.
A so-called leader I once spoke to said, “Why would I say, ‘Thank you,’ to my employees for doing their job. I pay them. Their paycheck is my thanks.” He wondered why he had to constantly police people to insure they spent their time on task, and why there seemed to be a problem of petty theft at the office. He didn’t believe in a connection. “That’s how people are.”
Whenever I hear, “That’s how people are,” I know that’s a team that could benefit from a shot of Adeptability.
Another employer I met recently complained that her executive assistant said she’d like more feedback. “I don’t know if I’m doing a good job.” This employer bragged, “I told her, ‘You’re still here, aren’t you? I haven’t fired you. That’s how you know that you’re doing well.’” She added, “You can’t coddle people.”
You may find these exchanges cartoonish. The sad truth is, they’re painfully common.
You’re here, reading The Yes Works blog, so your culture and your leadership are doubtless light-years ahead of that. Let’s take it to the next level. Introduce or turn up the volume on a “Thank You” Culture.
“Thank You” Culture
The research shows that if you want performance, you should be thanking people. Non stop. Thank the people who work for you. Thank your customers. Thank your vendors. Thank the people you work for, and those whom you work with. Cultivate a company culture of thanks.
THE THANK YOU ROI
The reasons are simple:
- It’s polite. Don’t get a reputation as a self-centered boor.
- It’s good for relationships, and as you may have heard me say before, “It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship.”
- We crave it. One of the top complaints people have about work, “My contribution is not recognized or appreciated.”
- It’s contagious. When we’re thanked, we thank. Thank a lot, and the thanks are going to propagate all over your company.
- It reinforces the behavior you want. Behavior recognized and rewarded is behavior repeated. Thanks encourage performance.
- Use it or lose it. Behavior not specifically recognized and rewarded fades away. It’s not because people are peevish. It’s the way our brains are wired. Thanks reward the centers of the brain that crave belonging — and those centers are powerful indeed. “Thank you” is the best kind of peer-pressure.
A management truism is, you reliably get what you measure. That’s true of ourselves as well as those we supervise, so we’ve got a tool for you. It’ll help you drive your “thank you” performance.
Five-Cent Thank Yous
Here’s the five-cent tool you don’t have to pay a dime for. It’s an easy and contagious company culture upgrade.
Put five pennies in your left pocket.
Every time you thank someone for something they’ve done, move one penny from your left pocket to your right pocket.
Every single day, make sure you’ve completed the transfer of funds from left to right. That’s 5 thanks a day. Better than an apple for company health.
Sound simple? It is. Still, it can be quite a challenge. We all like to think we’re gracious bosses and colleagues. Fact is, when the pressure is on, when we’re feeling busy and pressed for time, gracious may go right out the window. Saying, “thank you,” it’s only going to count — only going to deliver the benefits — if you’re received as genuine.
There’s a skill to finding and delivering a thank you that’s genuine even when you’re stressed, even when under duress. We’ve got some suggestions.
Here are a few guidelines from our Adeptability program:
- BE SPECIFIC. “Thank you,” even, “Thank you for your work,” is nice but gets limited ROI. Specific is far more powerful. “Thank you for double-checking my work to ensure we’re error free on this report.” That’s specific. That’s powerful. “Thank you for consistently turning your work in ahead of schedule. That keeps us on target for our clients and ensures we have a reputation for value.”
- TALK ABOUT BEHAVIOR. It’s not useful to thank people for generalities or for your interpretation of their attitude — “Thank you for being friendly. Thanks for being awesome.” Thank people instead for behavior. “Thank you for smiling at me this morning.” Thanking someone for being, “helpful,” is fine. Thanking someone for, “giving me a heads-up before the meeting that Greg might need the Klein Numbers,” is better. Not only does that make the behavior easier to repeat. It’s also more gratifying to hear. I know you mean it.
- CULTIVATE GRATITUDE. Nothing is too small to be worthy of thanks. Thanks for holding the door. Thanks for the paper clip. Thanks for hearing me out. Thank you for coming early to the meeting so we could start on time. Thank you for always doing what you said, or communicating in advance if there’s trouble. (Gratitude, by the way, is good for you — physically and psychologically.)
- DEBT ACCUMULATES. CREDIT DOESN’T. Did you miss all your thank yous yesterday? Get ten in today. Did you get ten in yesterday? You still owe five today. (Need proof that this idea that credit doesn’t accumulate is a practical principle of real truth? If you get a bonus this week, is it okay with you if your employer doesn’t pay you next week?)
- SPREAD THE LOVE. Don’t focus all your gratitude on your close-in teammates. Spread some gratitude to others in the group, and also to those outside your department. Together with your teammates, become the “Thank you” department. Build a department reputation for gratitude. Watch how easy it becomes to get things done across silos that used to be like pulling teeth.
Are you crushing your thank you numbers? Here are a couple of suggestions for upping your game.
- FORGET 5 CENTS. Go for 10. Go for 15. When you’ve cultivated your gratitude capacity, you begin to notice oodles of opportunities. It becomes an unstoppable habit. Spread this culture contagion even wider.
- TALK RESULTS. You’ll notice that some of the examples above don’t end with thanks for the behavior. They go on to name the result of the behavior. “Thank you for checking my work,” names a behavior. The likely result, “We turn in an error free product.” You can also build an Accountability Culture on this behavior-results type of feedback. Actually, you can’t separate the two. “Thank you for pointing out where I was failing to deliver.” Behavior. “I’m beginning to notice a tendency I have to gloss over that area of my work, and I’m taking actions to insure I remain attentive.” Result.
- PLANT AND FERTILIZE. Sometimes people hold back the behavior you’re looking for. Maybe they’re not sure you really want it. Maybe they’re uncertain their efforts will be recognized and received. Only getting a shadow of what you’re after? Try thanking people for the whole thing, even if you’re getting only the barest hint. “Thank you for your quality control attention on the whole project like that.” Even if they’ve only been scratching the surface, you’ll watch the behavior grow under a nurturing thanks. Thanking someone for their effort in building a new skill will drive and motivate more effort and faster improvement.
Gratitude is an Adeptability Culture skill. It’s contagious. It’s productive. It’s not the only way to get exceptional results. It is one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to drive ever improving performance and productivity.
And it does a body good. Pass it on.