Why I Send a Thank-You Message to Someone Who Helped Me or My Company Every Day
Free Book Preview: Coach ’Em Way Up
There is a giant magnet board sitting in the main conference room of my company's headquarters with 103 magnetic headshots. The magnet board is titled "The People Who Helped Us Get to Where We Are Today."
There's an advisor who spent 11 beautiful summer weekends inside an office helping me build my go-to-market strategy.
There are 18 investors who could have easily given up on me when I struggled to find product-market fit, but never once wavered in their support.
There's a venture capitalist who hasn't invested a dollar in my company and whom I didn't know two years ago when I founded it, but has introduced me to 16 of the people on this board without expecting anything in return.
Every morning, I send a simple text message or email, thanking someone on this list for something they've done for me or for Spotted. It could be a helpful phone call we had yesterday or a piece of advice they gave me a year ago. Most of the time, I'll get a response, and it starts my day and the recipient's on a brighter, more hopeful note.
The reaction I get from these morning messages of gratitude is much higher than the reaction I get when I am explicitly asking for something. Out of curiosity, I took a look at the emails and texts to investors or advisors where I had expressed gratitude, versus the notes to investors or advisors where I had explicitly asked for something. The former resulted in a nearly two times higher initial response rate, and those individuals reached out to me more than three times as frequently in the future to ask me in an unsolicited fashion if there was anything they could help me with.
But why don't we hear CEOs thank their investors or advisors more for their contributions to their company? Why don't we see our managers acknowledging a job well done with their direct reports?Because they're afraid that by recognizing someone, they will lose their leverage. And if they lose their leverage, they could then owe the other person something they didn't owe them before that expression of gratitude.
I've asked more than a dozen CEOs to help explain what prevents them from extending more thanks. Their first reaction is typically that employees, the board, investors or advisors will "think I owe them something." Executives often worry that, if they express too much gratitude toward an employee or advisor, the employee will then demand higher pay and the advisor will ask for more equity.But what exactly does an executive forgo by not writing that handwritten note to an investor, sending that simple thank-you email to an advisor or giving that high-five to a direct report?
An opportunity to perpetuate a cycle of thanks and to recognize those who were responsible for elevating us to our positions of leadership in the first place.
There are a few rules of engagement for giving thanks:
1. Be genuine.
Don't give thanks because you think it will benefit you. There is nothing worse than a disingenuous expression of gratitude. I never write a thank-you message that's just a single line. My notes always include customized language as to why I am grateful for this particular individual and what type of impact his or her help had on me and my work. If you aren't feeling genuinely thankful, don't write the note.
2. You can thank the same people over and over.
I thank our most active advisor multiple times a week, and he will often say back to me, "Your thanks never get old."
A very special advisor of ours helped me get through a particularly challenging time, when our company morale was particularly low. I've recognized her for getting me through that period in many different ways and many different times.
The impact someone has on you should match the frequency and depth of your thanks.
3. Thank even your most junior employees.
I vividly remember the day when we signed our first million-dollar contract. After attending the meeting solo at the client's office in Los Angeles, I walked out to my rental car and felt overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for my team, who had made this happen. I was running late for my flight but spent 10 minutes in my rental car, drafting up a note that began with "So little of this was my doing." In rereading the note now, I see that I thanked seven of my employees by name, six of whom were less than two years out of college. They were just as excited as I was, and all but one still work at Spotted today.
By constantly recognizing those around you, you will breed mutual respect within and around your organization. And respect is the basis of any meaningful, long-term relationship.
Whether you're an entrepreneur, a manager or a peer, begin to recognize that your success is at least partially driven by the multitude of individuals who've likely propped you up and helped you get to where you are today. In the process, you will enrich the lives of those around you, and you will be more apt to build sustainable relationships with those who matter the most to you.
Related Video: The Four A's of Expressing Gratitude