The 2 Words Great Managers Use All the Time

It doesn’t take much. Just saying two simple words. Yet, most managers don’t take the time to say “Thank You” to the people on their teams.

Here are 3 reasons why you should make sure showing appreciation and being grateful are a regular part of your work.

It makes other people feel good.

Maybe the most obvious result of expressing appreciation – it can influence the recipient of the gracious words to feel good.

It lets your team know you notice their work. And it reminds them their work is important and they’re making a difference.

As leaders, one of the goals that should always be on our minds is to leave the people around us better – better than they were before they came to work, better than they were before they showed up at the meeting, and better than they were before they spoke with us.

Giving a few words of thanks can create that result very quickly.

Not only that, but when people are feeling good, they do their best work.

They’re more resourceful when working through challenges.

And they’re more likely to be kind and appreciative to the people around them.

If you show up with the intention of expressing appreciation for your team, you could be starting a chain reaction that shifts the culture of your workplace. You’ll be modeling the behavior that will help the people around you to be more successful.

And don’t forget that words of thanks shouldn’t just flow downward to the people that report to you. If you’re a middle-manager like me, you can and should express appreciation to your bosses.

Doing so can help create the same results for your superiors that it can create for the members on your team.

It opens the way for more feedback.

None of us likes to be around someone that’s constantly pointing out things we do wrong. Right?

But as managers, identifying areas for improvement and working to make corrections is a big part of our job.

People are more receptive to corrective feedback when we commend them freely.

For decades, the “sandwich approach” has been encouraged by some leadership experts when it comes to giving corrective feedback. This approach places the criticism between two compliments so the recipient feels good at the beginning and end of the conversation and finds the counsel easier to swallow.

While some leaders find that to work well, don’t you think it would work better if the other person is used to being appreciated and knows they are valued all the time, not just as part of a technique that is used to make them accept criticism more readily? Instead of the sandwich approach, great managers use the unlimited free bread approach. 😁

Creating a culture where employees feel valued, noticed, and cared about makes it possible to offer “corrective” feedback easily, whenever it is needed. If you do that, your team will know you are always looking out for them and want them to be successful, whether you’re giving them commendation or feedback. Your focus is to help them to be even better.

It trains your brain to look for the good.

This aspect of saying thank you is often overlooked, but it may be the most powerful benefit to you as a leader.

As humans, our brains are really good at noticing things that are wrong.

And as managers, we have expectations for our team and for the individuals on it.

By default, we tend to easily pass over the things that are going well, that are meeting our expectations. And the people that aren’t doing well or the skills that are missing are the things that easily jump to our attention. 

Like a beautiful white shirt with an ink stain on it, our brains first notice the mark and can miss the rest. That’s fine when you’re doing laundry, but with people that approach doesn’t work well.

To have the best possible relationships we can and bring out the best in others, we have to retrain our brains to see all of the things that are going well.

Just a heads up: this is not easy!

For our brain, working to see the good things worthy of commendation and gratitude as our new default setting can be like learning a new language. It’s a new habit that will take effort to learn and practice.

But as you put in the effort, you will experience unexpected benefits. Study subjects who start a practice of gratitude are happier, more optimistic, and feel better about their lives.

Some people might think that happy people are more thankful, but the truth is happiness starts with being thankful.

And I know you’ll agree that happier managers are better at leading their teams.

The bottom line.

As we look at just some of the benefits that come from showing the people around us more appreciation, it’s clear none of us can afford to be a manager that doesn’t work at this habit.

The real question is, are you ready to do the work?

If you’re ready to take your self-coaching to the next level, check out my newest product for managers here:

Set aside some private time to write-out your responses to the exercise below. Turn off your phone and computer notifications or put your devices away completely. Find a place where you can spend a few minutes without being interrupted.

Think about each of the key players on your team and write down their names.

Next to each of their names, write 3 to 5 things that you appreciate about each of them.

You can use these questions to help:

What characteristics do you appreciate about them?

What tasks do you depend on them to handle?

What recent challenges have they dealt with successfully?

What are some of their outstanding accomplishments?

Circle one thing from the list for each person. Imagine speaking to them personally to express gratitude about the item you chose from their list. Practice saying the words of gratitude out loud, as though you were talking to each of them. Try starting with, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…” or, “Could I give you some feedback?”

Make a commitment to yourself that you will follow through on expressing gratitude to at least one of the individuals you thought of.


Nate Sleger is a career manager, management coach, and author of The Manager’s Self-Coaching Guide. His course Show Up At Work Like A Superhero has been taken by hundreds of managers worldwide. He currently lives and works in Wisconsin, USA.

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