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Posted by Bill Treasurer, Chief Encouragement Officer, Giant Leap Consulting, Inc..
Bill Treasurer is founder and Chief Encourager at Giant Leap Consulting (GLC), a Courage Building company that helps people and organizations live more courageously. Bill is the author of numerous books on leadership and courage.
Sometimes the best way to make an enduring difference in people’s lives is to let them know you care about them. For a number of reasons, this is hardest to do in corporate settings. In a world of shifting client demands, compressed deadlines, constantly rising expectations, and cutthroat competition, saying thank you seems like a luxury, if not a downright weakness.
Some executives avoid expressions of gratitude because they expect people to do a good job because they’re paid to. Others avoid it because they’re too busy or absentminded. Still others don’t express gratitude because they’re so uncomfortable receiving it themselves. And more than one executive has offered the excuse, “I just wasn’t brought up that way.”
Knowing how hard it is to say thank you at work, it took me by complete surprise when David, a partner in one of the world’s largest consulting firms, went “off agenda” for the sole purpose of saying thank you. I had been brought in to lead a workshop on Courageous Leadership, and had worked closely with David and his “lieutenants” to create a tight agenda.
Truthfully, I was a bit annoyed. You lose a lot of control when the client decides to fly solo, and there’s no telling where he or she will take the group. More than a few leadership retreats have been ruined because of the leader’s strong sense of self-importance. But sensing this moment was different, I withheld my protests. And I’m glad I did. No lesson on courageous leadership could ever have had the impact of what I saw next.
After clearing his throat, David spoke. “The reason I don’t do this much is because it’s hard for me to do. I don’t know why, it just is. But since today is all about courage, I’m going to stretch my comfort zone. Bear with me.”
Then David stood in front of each direct report, looked them in the eyes, and told them how much he appreciated them.
I’d never seen an executive get this vulnerable in front of his people before. David was out on the edge. He wasn’t just stretching his comfort zone, he was outside of it altogether. In a few instances, David’s voice got shaky and he had to pause and regain his composure. Nearly everyone in the room, including me, had gotten welled up with emotion, partly because what David was saying was so rawly honest and heartfelt, and partly because we were witnessing a man in the midst of his courage. David was being a courageous leader, the hard way: the way of vulnerability, the way of gratitude.
A deep silence fell over the room when he was done. David had just given each person a gift-the recognition that they were valued. Deeply and sincerely.
Making a difference, particularly in a corporate setting, takes more than grand plans. It takes more than chutzpah and audacity. And it certainly takes more than money. It takes elevating the self-worth of all the people who are working so hard to get the difference made. It doesn’t cost a thing to let someone know they are valued. It just takes a hearty thank you.
Bill Treasurer loves being in the midst of people’s courage. He is founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of Right Risk: Ten Powerful Principles For Taking Giant Leaps With Your Life (Berrett-Koehler, 2003). He also served as the editor of this book. To learn more about Giant Leap Consulting, go to www.giantleapconsulting.com.