Harness the Power of the Visual

  • The Imperative to Say Thank You

    If we really believed that our success at work depends on other people being successful in their jobs, what would we do differently?

    I ask this in the context of exploring our interdependence as people working within the same organization. We Americans have a dim sense of our interdependence with each other and with the rest of the world.

    Yet, no matter what our role is, we are supported by many other people of whose work we may know nothing. How many times do we think about the people who are on the roof fixing the leaks or the people who deliver the products or the people whose job it is to find resources for the organization or those who ensure that everyone gets a paycheck?

    When I ask audiences what we would do differently if we really acknowledged our mutual dependence, an answer that comes up is this—We would say “thank you” more often.

    I sometimes go to the other extreme and end a phone call with an absent-minded, “Thanks.” There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it’s more a nicety than an authentic expression of gratitude.

    So what are some authentic expressions that really say “thank you” to co-workers? Here is a list of ways to thank others for a job well done or just because their work every day makes your work (and your success) possible.

    1. A face-to-face “thank you”
    Say why you appreciate what was done for you. “I appreciated your referring that client. I would not ordinarily have had an opportunity to work with him/her and it’s an area I’ve been wanting to get into.”

    2. A hand-written note
    A hand-written thank you note or card will stand out. Very few people take the time to write a message in their own hand. A card or note will last longer than an E-mail. When I visited a client, I felt humbled and happy to see a card I had sent displayed on her desk. (Remember to include the details of why you are appreciative.)

    3. A hand-written card from the whole work group or staff
    This is nice for the times when the whole office has received special help or consideration. Having each person write a few lines and sign the card is a thoughtful gesture and brings every employee into the process. It can also get people into the habit of thinking and behaving appreciatively. It makes my day when I receive one of these.

    4. An E-card
    Many E-greetings are free of charge and all of them enable a personal message.

    5. Custom cards automatically created and sent
    You can send real paper cards (with stamps) that are generated automatically through http://www.sendbettercards.com/ This is a web-based service that prints, stuffs, stamps and mails cards for any occasion from you. (You create your own messages and can even have the card message generated in your own handwriting.) Try out the service free.

    6. A single flower
    If you can manage it, include one of those little plastic tubes that keeps the stem in water. This could mean the difference in the flower making it through the day. When I was an assistant principal in a high school, I put a red rose in a teacher’s mail box as part of an apology. It made a difference.

    7. A favorite candy bar or a piece of really good chocolate or a perfect piece of fruit
    Noticing what people particularly like or never eat helps here.

    8. A gift certificate to a movie for two

    9. A special award created for a special project
    I once produced a video for an event called the Showcase. Taking a cue from the Oscars, my colleagues created and presented me with a “Showscar” which is a gold statuette flanked by a CD. My “Showscar” stands proudly on my bookcase.

    10. Leave a brief message on someone’s answering machine
    “I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your doing XYZ. Thanks so much. We were able to get it done on schedule thanks to you.” And that’s all you need to say.

    11. Home-baked cookies, bars, muffins, cupcakes
    Anything you bake yourself is almost always appreciated, although few would turn down a bag of cookies from the bakery tied with colorful ribbons.

    And these last two are from Jo Condrill who suggests:

    12. A small certificate of appreciation. As Jo says, it doesn’t have to be a full-size. A smaller size framed certificate will be eye-catching and easier to fit in most office spaces.

    13. A U.S. Flag
    Give a U.S. flag that has flown over the Capitol. It is a unique gift and costs range from $9-$25. depending on how much personalization you want. A certificate of authenticity is included. Call or check the web site of your U.S. congressman or congresswoman to order.
    How do you say thanks to the people you work with? Please let me know.

    If this idea of interdependence in the workplace interests you, read “Declare Your Interdependence,” Chapter 3 in Staying Healthy in Sick Organizations: The Clover Practice

  • More Ways To Say Thank You

    Readers share their approaches for saying thank you to colleagues, co-workers, and clients. These suggestions followed the post “The Imperative to Say Thank You.”


    I posed the question to a community of people who care about healthy workplaces: How do you express sincere thanks to colleagues, co-workers and clients? Here are some responses:

    • ...Take that person out for breakfast or lunch. (C. Gosenheimer)
    • ...Taking someone out to lunch to thank them is a nice treat…for both the sender and the receiver. (M. Best)
    • Lovely cards…food, of course that matches the individual’s tastes… (C. Compton)
    • The “TY” award. This is an object that denotes “thankfulness” or something special that symbolizes the group. Pass it around at each team meeting as a special “thank you” to a team member. For example, the TY object could be a trophy with a special team inscription on it. Sue received the trophy last week for something special that she did. Sue now passes it on to someone she thinks deserves it. Everyone gets involved and it encourages everyone to look for special things about team members that should be recognized. (G. Pursell)
    • Have self-stick notes printed with a customized message or picture and space for a personalized message that you can use for special “thank you” notes. For example, the message I used was “For all you do…” (at the top of the note) with “This bud’s for you” and a graphic of a rosebud at the bottom of the note. My personal message was written in the middle (G. Pursell)
    • Whenever I’m in contact with an employee, subcontractor or vendor, I always try to be in an “upbeat”, “everything is possible”, “we’re in this together” frame of mind. We all respond better to sunny people. We all hate to let a sunny person down. If they have bad news or make a mistake, I let them know the impact without overreacting or belittling them. I help them look for options to make things right. I make mistakes, too. I know how it feels to make an unintentional or silly mistake. I let them know when they do a good job because I like my work to be appreciated, too. I show appreciation by learning about and showing interest in their personal lives. I try to remember special events in their lives as well. I, also, show appreciation through work lunches, flowers, small gifts, birthday dinners and special vacation bonuses. But these are worth nothing without a liberal use of the words “Thank you”.... (M. Webster)
    • I have trained myself to be cognizant of the greatness of others. I have found that acknowledging and thanking people for their efforts is most powerful when said right in front of them and looking into their eyes. I let those in upper management know the people responsible for our team’s successes as well as celebrate with my team in meetings where we are all present to share triumphs. (D. Lautenschleger)
  • We Can Rewire Our Minds

    We carry many unconscious habits and prejudices from our past experiences into our everyday work and family lives.

    Yet scientific research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is showing that we can literally change the way we think, act, and see the world. Our brains have much greater plasticity and capacity to change than previously thought. See the NightLine story on the impacts of meditation at