Two magic words: thank you. Go ahead, say them. I'm sure it wasn't painful at all, but a lot of people have a trouble enunciating those simple words. They seem to have a fear of making themselves vulnerable by complimenting others. I'm not a psychologist, so it's hard for me to figure it out, but those words can be magic if used in the right context. For instance, think about a boss who takes the time to say to thank you to colleagues for a job well done. That simple verbal gesture probably means more than a few extra dollars because it's delivered on a personal basis.
I learned the value of those magic words many years ago. Early in my career, I worked for a magazine that was struggling. There was even some talk that the magazine would be folded if it didn't find more advertising support. It was a scary time, and I wasn't sure how long I was going to have a job. Back then the H.J. Heinz Co. was a big advertiser in magazines. The company spent millions trying to get people to use its baby foods. My predecessors on the magazine had tried for years to get the Heinz business, but to no avail. I read all the reports about how hard people had tried. Having Heinz as an advertiser in your magazine was a big deal, so I was determined that somehow I would land the account.
As luck would have it, about the time I started with the magazine a second cover spot opened up, and an advertiser was needed to buy that position. My boss called the sales force together and gave us a pep talk, emphasizing how important the sale would be to the magazine's future. Since Heinz was based in Pittsburgh and was part of my territory, I knew what I had to do. I was so enthusiastic about the possibility of landing the prized account that I went directly to Heinz's executive vice president of marketing and told him about the wonderful advertising position that was available in my magazine. In other words, although it didn't dawn on me at the time I had gone over everyone's head. I didn't call the advertising agency first to ask permission to call the client and I had bypassed the advertising director. It was all done out of enthusiasm and naivete, with a little stupidity thrown in.
To make a long story short, I landed 12 four-color second covers from Heinz. My colleagues were absolutely astounded by my coup. I was ecstatic and my boss was ecstatic, but the thing I remember most was basically a little thing. A day or two after the sale I was standing on a street corner in front of the magazine's offices. The top officer of the magazine saw me, came over, shook my hand and said "thank you." I can still remember the look in his eyes as he congratulated me and uttered those two little words.
Of course there are countless ways to say "thank you." The gesture carries a lot of weight and makes others feel very special. How about saying to a loved one: "Thank you for everything you do for me." It will mean so much. The same should go for friends and colleagues.
Great leaders seem to have an innate appreciation for saying thank you to their colleagues. They go out of their way to make sure the people they work with know they are appreciated and respected. And that's what it's all about.
Watch the magic work,
Charles S. Lauer