Expressing your appreciation matters, especially when you’re a leader. Gratitude shows that you care, and that you appreciate the work and thought that went into a task, the assistance of a peer or the patience and support of a client. This kind of appreciation is often reciprocated — especially if the thankfulness is genuine.
So what kinds of approaches work well? To find out more, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council to share some of the best ways leaders can show gratitude.
1. Say ‘Thank You’
Whenever you see your coworker doing a great job at something, don’t wait until the performance review. Gratitude should be real. That’s when it feels right. Say “thank you” when it’s due, which is at that very moment. Make sure your team knows you appreciate their efforts all the way through the working process.
2. Personalize Your Appreciation
There are many ways to show gratitude to someone. You could get a card, buy lunch or simply say “thank you.” The gesture is nice, but what really counts is the thought. Take a minute to think about the person’s interests. Then say “thank you” in a meaningful way that speaks to them. It could be a note, a helpful hand or a cake. We are all different and appreciate kindness in different ways.
3. Use the ‘I Noticed’ Formula
A colleague shared a formula that I’ve found helpful for communicating gratitude specifically and meaningfully: “I noticed… I appreciate…” You start by saying you noticed something that the team member did that you were grateful for, and then say what specifically you appreciated about it. This helps the individual feel seen and more fully expresses your gratitude.
4. Appreciate Them Publicly
Let them hear about how proud and grateful you are to them publicly. Appreciate them by sharing their successful projects and compliment him in front of everyone so that others, too, will be encouraged to work harder and be recognized. It’s hitting two birds with one stone. Give credit and encourage others to work harder.
5. Be Genuine
Don’t express gratitude to someone in a personal or professional setting if you think “it’s the right thing to do.” If you’re thanking someone as an obligation, it’s not going to be sincere and won’t really accomplish anything. Instead, reserve your gratitude for times when you truly feel thankful. The rarity and genuine nature will make it much more valuable and meaningful.
6. Offer Help Where Needed
If they’ve had your back or helped you in some way, the best way to express your gratitude is to help them back. Offer to take a task off their plate or assist them with a project you’re well-versed in. Ask them how you can be there for them. What goes around comes around, so doing this for others is sure to come back in a positive way.
7. Bring Them a Treat
Who doesn’t like being surprised at work with a tasty treat? If you want to express gratitude to someone you work with, find out what snacks or sweets they like and bring it into the office for them. Not only will it be a fun surprise, but they’ll have something tasty and tangible to munch on as they work. It’s a great way to say “thank you” and keep spirits high.
8. Know Their Love Languages
I learned that we need to give love in the way people want to receive for the gesture to land. I now ask all my employees their love language because it helps me know what kind of gratitude they will receive.
9. Be Available for Them
For me, when I want someone to know how much I appreciate them I make sure they know that I am there for them. Whether it’s helping them with a project, buying them a meal or just being there when they need to talk. I make sure I am there for good times, bad times and everything in between. And when it is for someone that you are truly grateful for, it should be second nature.
10. Be Specific
A simple way is to tell them “thank you” and be specific when you do. Think of an example of a time that coworker or team member did something you were grateful for and tell them what they did and why you appreciated them! Being specific with the “what” and the “why” takes appreciation to that next level!
11. Celebrate Milestones
A lot of times, I think a heartfelt “thank you” trumps most other things, but we do provide gifts and have events to show our appreciation. Employees who recently celebrated their 10th anniversary received gifts. In addition, we have snacks in the office, celebrate employees’ birthdays, have a Thanksgiving lunch, have a holiday party at the end of the year and give employees year-end bonuses.
12. Send Handwritten Notes
Handwritten notes have the power to set you apart from the all-to-common informal e-communication expressions of thanks ranging from text messages to email. Instead, these notes establish a connection by demonstrating care and the willingness to take the time to write. Remember timeliness is equivalent to thoughtfulness, so try to send any communication within three days of the occasion.
13. Cook for Them
One of my favorite ways to show gratitude is to cook for my employees instead of hiring a catering company. Of course, I don’t cook every day, but at least once a year, my wife and I cook for staff in the break room using portable electric skillet, toaster oven, and/or a panini press. In a world saturated with technology, my employees love taking the time to eat a home-cooked meal with others.