Thank You for Not Giving Me Cash

Posted 07.16.2010

Thankyou-note1 There were some interesting reader poll results in the daily SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter this week.  The question was, “What’s the most satisfying reward you can receive for a job well done?” The number one answer, with 30% of the responses, was “cold hard cash.” The interesting part was the answers that came in a very close second and third at almost 30% and 28% respectively. Number two was “praise and expressions of thanks from my team and my customers.”  Number three was “a handwritten thank you from an executive/leader I respect.” 

So, based on the SmartBrief results, we can conclude that more people (58%) want thanks than cash (30%) for a job well done. This stat came up yesterday when I was wrapping up a group coaching program with some executives I’ve been working with over the last seven months. 

The heart of that program is what we call an Executive Success Plan. Based on some initial 360 feedback, each executive chooses a couple of specific behaviors to work on during the program. They tell their stakeholders what they’re doing and ask for ideas on how to be better and ongoing feedback and help in doing so. Before the program ends, we run a shorter survey with their stakeholders to see how things are going. The way it always works is that if the executives tell people what they’re working on, ask for ideas and follow through on those ideas, they get better. We’ve got the data to prove it and yesterday was no exception. (By the way, a shout out of thanks to Marshall Goldsmith for pioneering the process that ours is based on.)

In the closing session, I asked the execs to share some stories about what they thought had changed for them over the past five or six months (this discussion was before they got their mini survey results). One guy talked about how he had been working on being more connected with the people on his team and how he had been a lot more intentional about getting around to just talk with people about what was going on in their lives. He’s found that he enjoys his work more as a result and that the morale and productivity of his team has risen. A number of execs were working on similar opportunities with their teams or their peers and reported similar results from doing little things like asking people, “What do you think?” or finding new colleagues to ask to lunch.

What stories like this and the SmartBrief stats remind me is that, at the end of the day, we all just want to be loved and appreciated. Sure, a certain amount of cash is nice. But, seriously, when was the last time you saw a framed check on somebody’s wall? I’ll bet you’ve seen a few framed thank you notes though. 

Nothing says thank you like a sincere thank you or some extra positive attention. Who needs yours?

What was the most meaningful expression of thanks you ever received? What would it take to make someone else feel that way?