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Leadership Phil

Say “Thank You” Like an Anarchist


anarchist-blogExpressing appreciation – saying “Thank You” –  to someone for a job well done is one of the most valuable but, if sources like Gallup are to be believed, inadequately used techniques in today’s workplace. The value of a simple “thank you” is tremendous in growing pride, sense of team value, determination to succeed and self-discipline in employees. Repeated studies assert, however, that in most workplaces it is not done well or enough.  

Taking the time to immediately and personally thank someone who contributed effectively can be very powerful. It usually takes little effort and can have good impact, especially if the person is not in your organization or they are senior to you. This approach can be effective whatever position you hold in an organization; and particularly in cases where the elements in a company do not have a good record of working smoothly together. I suggest you consider thanking people like an Anarchist would – disregard all the boundary lines!

No matter what position you hold, it is often easy to see when someone in an organization has gone the extra mile. Taking a moment to say “thanks” for that can be very powerful; regardless of your relative position to them in the formal structure. Thanking a peer, someone who works outside your authority, or even someone higher in the infrastructure than you are is a very good way to encourage continued great behavior and build a sense of team that goes beyond formal boundaries. In almost every case; overall organizational success depends on people in the company that may not work on your team. Don’t let the structure keep you from saying thanks!

I once got this kind of expression of appreciation from a Navy Captain whose team had the bay next to where my team worked on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Life was very hectic at that point (it was during the early days of the Panama invasion) and we were working 18- to 20-hour days trying to give the best possible support to the units who were going into the fight.

Those of us with some experience in ground force operations found ourselves answering multiple questions for our brethren from other Services, many of whom were doing critical planning and who had to understand the ramifications of what they were creating. The Captain led a great team, and he had a number of members who had appreciable ground experience. Some of the other teams in our section did not, and they repeatedly relied on those of us nearby Army and Marine Joint officers for insights. At the end of the invasion, he sent me a simple note on his personal stationary, mentioning that he had noticed my support to the other groups and thanking me for the job I had done. He stated that I had helped the overall organization be more effective and, as a result, they were able to do the same for the force in the fight.

His gesture was both unnecessary and greatly appreciated; I remember I walked taller for weeks after. It was certainly a good thing to be told I was doing well by my boss, who was supposed to be watching me. It was an entirely different, and very effective thing to have someone who did not have to spend the time measuring my performance to notice it anyway.

In my later service and follow-on participation in industry I have found this approach can do wonders for an organization. Take the time to commend people who don’t work for you on their exceptional work – the Anarchists got this one right.

Phil Coker

Brigadier General (Retired) Phil Coker is a professional coach with a focus on new product development, leadership training, executive & leadership coaching, and organizational strategy. You can read more about Phil’s background and qualifications and send a message to Phil here.

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