Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Ron Wilson - A Thank-You Goes a Long Way

Recently, my friend Ron Wilson left a comment on my blog post. Not many people saw it, but it is so well written that I wanted all my followers to see it. Here it is, intact...

During the last 11 years of my legal career, I served as a senior level in-house lawyer and ultimately the General Counsel for a mid-sized corporation. Part of my job was to supervise a small group of in-house lawyers...a task, it's been said, is not unlike trying to herd cats. I fully agree with this often used simile.

I was fortunate throughout this 11-year period of my career to have one young lawyer on my staff, who may have been almost the perfect employee. She was a workhorse. To say I "supervised" her is a euphemism. All I had to do was give her the objective and parameters of a legal or administrative project and point her toward the deadline. She took it from there. She was intelligent; competent; professional; hard-working; practical; thorough; articulate; an effective writer; pro-active; task-oriented; committed to excellence; and honest. (Yes, I said "honest." Please no cynical lawyer jokes.) Plus, she never complained; almost always had a smile on her face; displayed a perpetual upbeat attitude; had a good sense of humor; and revealed a mature perspective on her work and her life. She and I even shared a couple of favorite sports teams and she and her husband liked many of the same kinds of movies that my wife and I enjoyed.

Over the years I came to deeply respect her and her work; I trusted her; and I relied on her to help me meet my General Counsel responsibilities. During annual performance reviews, I always gave her high ratings, with lots of specific examples of the excellence of her performance to support my glowing evaluations.

About three years before I retired, as part of an ongoing internal management workshop I was attending, I provided my employees with a series of written questions designed to give the supervisor feedback on his or her management skills and effectiveness. One of the questions was something like, "Describe one or two behaviors related to your manager's supervision of you that you think he or she could improve. Please be specific."

When I opened my "perfect" employee's comments and read her response to this question, my jaw dropped. All she wrote was, "I'd liked to be thanked more for my work." That was it. The law department's dependable workhorse, who always performed her tasks at a high level, with a smile on her face, and never complained. All she wanted from me was to be thanked more. Had I not always given her glowing performance ratings with regular pay increases? Wasn't that enough "thanks" for a job well done? Apparently not. I learned that all human beings, even non-complaining, professional workhorses want to be thanked for their hard work. Sure, highly rated performance reviews, pay raises, and promotions are appreciated, but every now and then, a simple and sincere "thank you" will go a long way.

After that learning experience I made it a point to look my employees in the eye and thank them when they did well -- at least as often as I critiqued them when they came up short. I don't have any metrics to prove it, but it seemed to me that the overall productivity of the lawyers in my law department went up during the last two years before I retired. I swear, I think my workhorse even got better.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Kathleen Scott said...

Wilson tells a good story. Glad you put this up, Denny.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is so very true. It is a great story.