Word-Of-the-Week #830: Thank You

July 2, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Thank Youa conversational expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment of appreciation.

When was the last time someone said Thank You to you? When was the last time you sent a Thank You to your family, customers, guests, members or clients? Have you noticed more people saying thank you since the pandemic?

This week features UT columnist Neil Senturia “Thank you. So rare in business but so important.”

“I have been binging on the Netflix series “Ozark.” I have finished seasons one and two and am now halfway through season three when a moment in episode five flattens me. I have related this moment to a number of my peers who have had a similar response. So, at the risk of spoiling a tiny portion of the show, herewith.

The main character, Marty Byrde, works for a cartel drug lord. He is kidnapped by the drug lord, tortured and finally as a way of achieving his freedom, he pulls off a financial magic trick that only he can do, the result of which is worth millions of dollars to the cartel. There is this marvelous moment as he is about to be set free, when the drug lord asks him “What do you want?” Marty makes a simple request about having more authority in his work. Then the drug lord asks, “Is that all you want?” 

And then it happens. There is a very long pause as they stare at each other. And finally, Marty looks at his captor and says, “A thank you.” What Marty wanted was what all of us want — recognition for a solid and successful effort. He wanted this powerful man to say thank you, to humble himself and acknowledge that he was a tiny bit beholden to Marty, that he was grateful for his skill. I won’t tell you the next moment, but what I will tell you is that I have shared this story enough times to know that getting a thank you is often very difficult, and sometimes impossible. And it really matters. 

Rule No. 664: You’re welcome.

It is often easier to write a check, to give a bonus or offer more stock and a promotion, but to say thank you, well, that seems at times and from certain people to stretch the bounds of human interaction. In my own little world, from time to time, I have pulled off modest magic tricks, not the stuff of Penn & Teller mind you, but valuable enough to save some companies and some people. And what I wanted most was to be thanked. 

I have polled other advisers and leaders and it appears that a thank you ranks right up there with the dodo bird — nearly extinct. So when someone pulls a rabbit out of the hat for you, be sure to pet it. 

The story above meshes nicely with a piece of research that was done by Charles O’Reilly, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. O’Reilly explores the confluence of leadership and narcissism. His theme is that boards often pick leaders who are ostensibly bold and visionary. But often it turns out, once they are in power, their true nature emerges. He says, “instead of being bold, they are merely impulsive, they are not just confident, but become arrogant and entitled.” Steve Jobs and Elon Musk fall on the high end of the narcissistic self-serving spectrum, but they were brilliant and effective. By contrast, for example, the CEOs at WeWork, Uber and Theranos share the fatal narcissist gene and wreaked havoc. 

The board and the team want to believe in the strong leader, the person who will take the company to the promised land, but O’Reilly points out, “they are often reckless in their pursuit of personal glory.” These individuals tend to exhibit lower integrity and higher self-interest, and when they ascend to positions of power, their behavior can have a “malignant influence” throughout the organization. 

O’Reilly sees this not only in politics, but also in young technology companies where the mantra of move fast and break things favors the confident leader who “believes he knows better than others, and thus feels even more justified in ignoring the advice of experts.” This type of “grandiose narcissist” often feels they don’t receive the admiration and credit they deserve and that leads to resentment. And that resentment leads to a purge of anyone who challenges them. 

So, now the puzzle completes itself. It is precisely this kind of narcissist leader who is incapable of saying thank you, who is blind to acknowledging that the matrix of a company’s success has multiple strands. Being able to give a thank you not only empowers the recipient, but also enhances and elevates your own status.” 

This week’s focus is on saying Thank You. Have you ever felt you did not receive recognition when it was due? When was the last time you expressed gratitude and/or appreciation? Did you say it directly to the person or did you send a handwritten note?

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WOW Word-Of-the-Week #384: Thank You!

December 14, 2011 by · Comments Off on WOW Word-Of-the-Week #384: Thank You! 

Thank You! – a conversational expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment of appreciation.

When was the last time someone said Thank You! to you? When was the last time you sent a Thank You! to your customers, guests, members or clients? Does it seem like our society is lacking manners and etiquette?

Last week’s WOW featured the cover story of the November 20th issue of American Profile that read, “THANK YOU! The benefits of expressing gratitude.” I got lots of positive feedback so this week I decided to share more of that article with you. John Kralik, author of “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life,” had hit the lowest point of his life. He was going through a second, drawn-out divorce, had gained 40 pounds, had lost touch with his two sons, his new girlfriend ended their relationship, he was broke, and his law firm was in the red and about to lose its lease.

Too depressed to enjoy the 2008 New Years Day Tournament of Roses near his home he set off on a hike.  That is when an inner voice spoke to him and said, “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want.” By the end of the trail he decided to write one personalized thank you note every day for a year. Kralik says, “The exercise took the focus off of me and my problems and put it on the blessings in my life and the things that people were doing for me.”

Within a year, something miraculous happened: He lost weight, turned his law firm around and reconnected with old friends and estranged relatives. “I have a peace inside because I recognize that whatever my momentary difficulties are, I have a good life.”

Kralik says, “A handwritten note gives you greater focus on the other person. It’s almost like a piece you is in the room with them when they read it.” And author Nancy Henderson says, “In this era of emails and tweets, nothing compares to a handwritten note from a real person to a real person. It’s not just a sign of good etiquette; it’s a way to bond.”

This week’s focus is on Thank You! When was the last time someone said Thank You! to you? When was the last time you expressed gratitude and/or appreciation? Did you say it directly to the person or did you send a handwritten note? Who would you like to have stronger bonds with? When was the last time you told them Thank You!?

Reader Responses

“Thank you, Susan, for your ever-thoughtful WOW. And thank you for being YOU!” – Your fan, Margie

“I’m THANKFUL for your friendship and knowing the two of you is a treat!” – Elaine

“Your choice of word is ideal for this time of year. This morning I received a mini-Christmas stocking filled with chocolate bars from my boss, in addition to a note thanking me for all that I do every day at the office. It was unexpected, but it was a great surprise. Right away, I went to her office to thank her for stuffing my stocking and wishing her a Happy Hanukkah. When I read your note, I harkened back to a comment from James Ward, aka “The Food Dude,” at WLS-TV Chicago, who told me once that he reviewed numerous restaurants over the years where the waitstaff replied “no problem,” when he thanked them for their service. It was rare, he told me, that a server would reply, “you’re welcome,” which is the standard and proper reply. I guess we live in an age where people think they are not required to send a thank you note if they say it in person. Even if I say thank you in person, I take the time to pick out a card and write a note in long hand. Also, people opt for the email thank you instead of a card. I read a letter in today’s New York Times from a reader who noted that an email is simply “dashed off,” while a letter or note is “pondered, its stationery is considered, even its stamp is chosen with care…if letters are discarded along with cursive handwriting, we will be all the poorer for it.” I may have mentioned in previous posts how I used to send birthday and holiday cards to the children of very good friends. What was troubling to me, and it still is to this day, that none of the young mothers EVER picked up the phone to thank me for remembering their kids. There was a time recently when I sent an invitation to our home by email and it was never answered. Aside from a lack of manners or civility, there seems to be a lack of communication, even with all of the means of communication at our fingertips. Instead, we seem to be using email AND caller-ID as ways to decide to whom we should or should not answer. It is a shame. But it seems that it is too much trouble to take the time to write a simple thank you note. Our daughters have been taught to do this with every gift they receive. It is an important life habit. Hopefully our example will set people right. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, Susan. Every best wish!”  – “Warrior” Joe

“I want to say “Thank You” to you for sending us your FUN-damental WOW – Word-of-the-Week sayings. I really enjoy reading them and I also pass them to people to give them a little boost and also to give them something to think about. I am also grateful to call you one of my California friends. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and I wish for you a very prosperous 2012 for WOWs!” – Linda