There is a free, readily available resource that you probably underutilize. It can change moods, increase engagement and make people work harder. It’s a simple ‘thank you.”

Saying those words cost nothing, yet we can be stingy with their application. When we do make use of them, we often dilute their impact. Sometimes we’re insincere and say those words without meaning. Sometimes we’re perfunctory, leaving recipients feeling as if they are party to a transaction.

We can all do better through the application of what Mark Goulston calls a 'Power Thank You.' In his book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, 2009) Mark writes: “if you’re deeply grateful to someone who’s done an exceptional favor for you, you need to express that emotion by going beyond the plain words ‘thank you’ and instead offer a Power Thank You. When you do this, your words will generate strong feelings of gratitude, respect, and affinity in the other person.”

While Mark, provides a great framework for demonstrating gratitude in his book, I’ve supplied a few key points on how to make communicating your gratitude more impactful.

Be specific. Let’s say, for example, one of your team members found a significant bug in one of your systems. You could say, “Hey, Jan, thanks so much for fixing that bug.” If, however, you wanted to practice using a Power Thank You, you can get far more specific. You could demonstrate much more sincerity by saying “Hey, Jan, that bug in the TPS report generator really could have been a big problem for us. My guess is you probably saved us $300 per customer over the next few months, as well as a ton of headache.”

Personalize it. Especially in business, gratitude can often be cheapened by keeping its focus on the bottom line and professional efficiencies. We can improve our example above by adding “I’ve been having some account management issues with the Bobs over at InnoTech, and this issue probably would have sent them over the edge. With this bug out of the way, I can stay focused on working out the issues we already have over there.”

Support your words with body language. Make eye contact and smile. Directly face the recipient of your Power Thank You, and for the love of all that is sacred, close that laptop and put that phone away! Your body language should demonstrate that showing gratitude is the most important thing you could be doing in that moment.

Be authentic. Especially as a business leader, team members can see through pleasantries. If you aren’t actually thankful, you can do more harm than good by saying that you are. Apply the Power Thank You only in circumstances where you genuinely feel compelled to express gratitude.

Don’t cheapen it with a promise of reciprocity. Also common in business settings is a latent desire to offer quid pro quo as the beneficiary of a good deed. Often, offering something in excess of your sincerity actually cheapens the message. Remember, this isn’t a transaction. Saying thank you the right way is something that can be deeply touching and personal. Don’t ruin the opportunity by offering anything but your gratitude in return.

With that, I thank you, dear reader, for hearing me out. You probably have a lot on your plate right now, and you took time out of your busy schedule to read some of my thoughts. Together, we can share this message to make better relationships work toward a world bursting at its seams with gratitude.