The Art of Appreciation

Infrastructure Series (Part 12)

The Infrastructure series will posted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through the month of November 2011 (except the week of Thanksgiving). 

Recently, I received a beautiful thank you note in the mail. The sender had taken the time to write a note that was genuine and conveyed her appreciation. It was so beautifully written that I had to call and let her know that I really loved the way she had expressed herself. She was quite pleased with the call which led to a discussion of the art of appreciation. Extending appreciation should be a part of the communications infrastructure of all companies.

One word emails with the word “thanks,” said in passing or abbreviated text messages are fine if the intent is to validate receipt which is also an important gesture. This simple acknowledgement conveys little, but does work in many cases. It does not work if the person to be thanked has gone out of their way, invested time, effort and creativity or perhaps saved you from a situation that is less than desirable.

The true art comes in finding the right time, opportunity, vehicle and venue to say thank you with the appropriate level of appreciation.

Right Time – Timing is very important. If there was urgency in the need, task or kindness, there should be a similar urgency in the appreciation. There are always situations where we are pressed for time, but making time to say thank you returns well on the investment.

Opportunity – The opportunity to say thank you in the way in which we want to express ourselves does not always present itself easily. It is not simply a matter of time but also a decision of place, method and who else might hear the message. In most cases, we have to create the opportunity. Appreciation delivered spontaneously is right for things happening in the moment but not for anything of significance. In some cases the initial thanks (such as when opening a gift) is immediate and then followed by a more meaningful gesture.

Vehicle – Whether it is a phone call, extended text message, well written email, thank you note or gesture, the message should be delivered in a manner that reflects the appreciation. If it is a gesture like a dinner, flowers or other gift, an accompanying note or message is always appropriate.

Venue – Showing appreciation requires the selection of a venue. It might be a private acknowledgement one on one, or a part of a larger work like an employee review, which may also include monetary or positional consideration. Other venues include a testimonial that can be used with clients or on the web, acknowledgement at a formal or informal gathering where others are a part of the appreciation, social media and award ceremonies. Large events should always show appreciation, not only to organizers but also the people behind the scenes.

Level of Appreciation – Gushing thanks over something routine or nearly inconsequential sends the wrong message and may set up expectations that you will not meet in the future. Too simple an acknowledgement for a major effort can diminish the value and reduce willingness to stretch in the future.

Message – The message should be relevant to the act and reference the impact. It should be written or conveyed in the tone of voice that is yours, rather than appearing crafted on your behalf. It must be genuine and not artificial or political. The lowest form of sincerity is when you receive a message that says something like “Big-shot wants to convey thanks for your efforts. Signed off by a third party.” If you must have someone else write your message, at least craft it as if it is coming from you.

Lessons from the Masters – There are a number of people I admire as they are masters in the art of appreciation. Here are some of their tips that I think are worth passing on.
  1. Carry a small quantity of thank you notes and stamps in your computer case, luggage or car. When there is an acknowledgement worthy of a thank you note, write it as soon as you can and drop it into the nearest mailbox. If sending by email, compose it and send as soon as possible.
  2. Consider using social media with a “thanks” of the week including tagging of individuals. In this case, it may not mention the individual deed or task which can be done separately. It will attract attention to your being considerate and spread the recognition through the tagging to those in their contact circles.
  3. If you and your people use Linkedin, write a testimonial or recommendation for your people. It must be genuine, meaningful and reflective of their talent, skill or accomplishment.
  4. Highlight a specific thank you once a month, particularly where it recognizes a behavior that you want to have repeated and integrated by others in the business.
  5. Keep a list of people to be thanked and the reason. This is helpful in jogging the memory particularly when your paths cross unexpectedly.
  6. Make at least one call to say thank you for every thirty minutes of driving time.
  7. Create a place either in your office (a whiteboard) or internal chat area or other point where simple thank you’ s can be posted by anyone in your company.
  8. Make appreciation a part of your recognition program.
  9. Pay it forward by thanking someone and asking them to do the same for someone else.
  10. Create a culture of thankfulness in your company. This begins with leadership and is integrated throughout with training for managers and accountability. The culture should touch not only those in the company but include vendors, clients and those who deserve thanks and recognition.
Appreciation is an art form and one of the least costly ways to accelerate performance and value in a company. It should be fully integrated in the communications infrastructure.

We felt that this post was timely as tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Soltys, Inc. is genuinely appreciative of our readership, clients and those who follow us. I am especially grateful for the help and support of the team at Soltys, Inc. We have posted a special message of thanks on our site and we would like to share with all.

Thank you!