This week millions of us will celebrate Thanksgiving; that day every year where we take a moment between stuffing ourselves at the table to give thanks for what we have. It is a time of being grateful for those in our lives and the value they add to our existence. Next month many more celebrate the holidays according to their faith’s traditions with most exchanging gifts with each other.
Several years back I was managing a large team of associates, and although it had always been my tradition back to my first role as a manager to give a gift to each of my staff, this year I didn’t have the income to stretch that far. It was about this same time of year, and I was quite perplexed at what I was going to do, when one of the managers in my group made this comment. She said, “Boy we go from being thankful for what we got all year to a month of getting and giving gifts; I wish we had a breather in between.” And that is when this idea came to me.
I had been sweating what item to give to my staff, and I remember how my time as their manager is probably the most valuable thing I can ever give. So I went out and bought a “holiday” greeting card for each person that celebrated their faith appropriately. I decided not to be politically correct this year. I then wrote each of them a personal letter detailing how they contributed to our success as a team that past year, and how vital they were to our continued success. As much as possible I tried to recall some of the smallest things they may have done that made a difference.
When it came time to pass them out, about half of them I had to use our inter-office mail, and the rest I was able to place on their desk early one morning. After I had finished I went back to my office to work. To my surprise, the first emails I received that morning were from my employees on the East Coast, which was three hours ahead of me. They had just opened the inter-branch mail and read my notes. The gratitude and appreciation was overwhelming as I read one long email after another. Each one was responding to my letter going in the opposite direction feeding me stories about how I made a difference in their lives.
By the time I had finished, I looked at my clock and was dumbfounded how quiet it was in the office this morning. Normally by now things were rocking and loud, so I took a peek to see what was up. Well everyone was there, but they all had their noses in the letters. I snuck back into my office and left them to their reading.
Over the next couple of days, I received either an email or a personal letter thanking me for my gift and playing back even more stories about how I had impacted their lives in a positive way. Although this was not my intention to solicit the same gift, I felt that year I had really figured out the management secret of giving thanks to your employees, and the cost was just my time.