How to give a mean­ing­ful ‘thank you’

MARK GOUL­STON

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

For­get the empty plat­i­tudes. Your star em­ployee is not a “god­send”, he is a per­son wor­thy of ap­prec i at i on a nd r es­pect, who de­serves your fre­quent ac­knowl­edg­ment. When was the last time you thanked him, really thanked him?

In my line of work, I of­ten com­mu­ni­cate with CEOs and their ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tants, and nowhere is the need for grat­i­tude more clear.

Af­ter one CEO’s as­sis­tant had been par­tic­u­larly help­ful, I replied to her email with: “I hope your com­pany and your boss know and let you know how valu­able and spe­cial you are.”

She wrote back: “You don’t know how much your email meant to me.”

That made me won­der: When was the last time her boss had thanked her?

Such in­stances hap­pen reg­u­larly. A few years ago, I was try­ing to get in touch with one of the world’s most well-known CEOs about an ar­ti­cle. His as­sis­tant had done a great and friendly job of gate­keep­ing. So when I wrote to her boss, I in­cluded this: “When I get to be rich, I’m go­ing to hire some­one like your as­sis­tant – to pro­tect me from peo­ple like me. She was help­ful, friendly, feisty ver­sus bor­ing and yet guarded ac­cess to you like a loyal pit bull. If she doesn’t know how valu­able she is to you, you are mak­ing a big man­age­rial mis­take, and you should know bet­ter.”

A week later, I called his as­sis­tant and said: “I don’t know if you re­mem­ber me, but I’m just fol­low­ing up on a let­ter and ar­ti­cle I sent to your boss to see if he re­ceived it.”

His as­sis­tant replied warmly: “Of course I re­mem­ber you. About your let­ter and ar­ti­cle. I sent him the ar­ti­cle, but not your cover let­ter.”

I was sure I’d messed up. Halt­ingly, I asked why.

She re­sponded with the de­light of some­one who had just served an ace in a ten­nis match: “I didn’t send it to him, I

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