Stop thanking your team

Notebook with handwriting to suggest that the leader stop thanking the team so much

Most leaders don’t know it, but the way they’re thanking their team is actually self- and team-defeating. Before making an error that is at best as useful as watering the ocean, or at worst as appreciated as making a “tiny correction” to the Mona Lisa, stop thanking your team.

Here’s why.

People want to make a difference. It’s what defines and realizes us. To everyone besides your mom, you are what you do. Even in a team people want to know that they, personally, are making a meaningful contribution. It’s not just the most motivation a person can have – it’s the only true motivation there is (Hertzberg, 1959). One of the biggest problems leaders have is thanking their team too much.

You have this problem, too.

When you thank someone for their work, you think you’re expressing genuine appreciation. But “genuine” is in the eye of the beholder. And for 90% of the “thanks” out there, you’re not doing it right (authentically). In fact, you’re actually making things worse.

To be a great leader you’ve got to stop thanking your team – at least the way most do. Most feel an irrepressible need to add on to “thanks” with some thoughts of their own.

Bad move.

stop at "thanks."

If anything more than gratitude is expressed, all they’ll hear is “BUT.” Just stop at “thanks.”

With one exception.

Your thanks will be most impactful if you are able to fully subordinate yourself to the other’s act or idea.

Your thanks will be most impactful if you are able to fully subordinate yourself to the other’s act or idea. The best way to do this is with a simple nod that says “tell me more.” (Or you can actually say the words).

Next to making a difference, and actually a form of it, people need to feel a sense of power. Not necessarily via pure dominance, but yes, by some means of rising above others. High potential workers are especially motivated by power. The power to make a difference through others.

So, why does thanking your team actually demotivate them?

First – You’re recognizing the obvious

You demote and demean the high potential by thanking them for something that they feel is their normal order of business. It’s like telling someone, “Thanks, Mary. You’re very articulate.” To most this is a “left-handed” compliment at best, judgement in disguise. To some it’s an outright slap in the face.

NEVER thank someone for something that the target of thanks believes is an innate capability of theirs. I use the word, “thank” but the general act is one of praise. Be very careful that when you allocate praise that it is for something truly extraordinary. Something you REALLY appreciate, as in, “you really saved my @ss”.

Second – You’re improving "good enough"

You hijack – or “seize and one up” the individual’s contribution. Yep, by thanking someone you are basically saying, “I know that was a valuable contribution because I already know {have done, etc), ….”

Have you ever edited someone else’s email? (you know what I'm talking about then)

This may be a bit of a stretch presented as is. Let me offer another example to illustrate the harm in “blessing” another’s work.

TEAM MEMBER:  “We should put gears on the engine.”

LEADER:  “That's a great idea {because I gave it to you}. Thanks. That will also help us to make more ground rutabaga.”

TM to Self: {“I know it’s a great idea, Jughead, that’s what I deliver. Why can’t you leave it alone?”}

This power move takes (seizes) Team Member’s idea by acknowledging (“You’re right”) and taking it where it wasn’t going (hijacks it).

Don’t think you do this? Have you ever edited someone else’s email?

Moving on.

Third – You don’t really mean it

Some people are inveterate "Thankers." They thank someone for stepping on their toe. Over thanking is dilutive. The more you thank someone, the less they hear it or appreciate it (and you).

Did you know that you can stop your squawk box, I mean, “Alexa”, from repeating everything you tell it? Google it. I bet you will because you get sick of hearing your echo every time you give an order?

YOU:      “Alexa, turn on the lights.”

ALEXA: “Sure, I’ve turned on the lights.”

YOU:      “No duh. I can see that.”

ALEXA: “Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”

Alexa’s no good-natured woman, she’s a heartless hockey puck.

You get sick of hearing the same words. You get sick of hearing the same intonation. You realize Alexa’s no good-natured woman, she’s a heartless hockey puck. (AI still has a long way to go).

Yep. This is what over thanking sounds like to your team – a hockey puck. Enough already!

The science of motivation (simple version of Victor Vroom's Expectancy Theory)

In Physics, Work = Force x Displacement.

In Psychology, Valued Work = Quality x Instrumentality. (this is a 3rd person derivative of V. Vroom, 1964)

People want to deliver value at work. Let them do it.

Properly motivated, most deliver a quality product that makes a difference. People want to deliver value at work. Let them do it. Don’t stick your finger in a humming machine. Save your gratitude for the truly unexpected result and avoid over engineering another's pride.

Oh. And thanks for being a good reader.


Google can’t solve all problems. For hands on expertise, get in touch with me at Talentlift. (You can click the word. It won’t send an email or make a call).

3 (easy) office tips to enhance your influence

Managers share a cup of coffee

Influence. In a word, it’s what the social world is really made of and a critical part of our everyday lives. What if you knew some decorative, office tips to enhance your influence without others even knowing what you’re doing? The work of psychology provides numerous examples of how you can improve your odds at influencing others. Here I provide a few tips to enhance your influence, specifically your likability.

Research has shown that people make extremely quick assessments of whether you are a “threat or a friend.” In fact, this happens BEFORE you are even consciously aware of the others’ true intent or character. This is the result of years of evolution, directly related to the “Fight or Flight” phenomenon. Before we’re even aware of what we’re confronting, we have a sense of “I’m OK”, or “I’m not OK”. Subconscious activity is faster than conscious activity.

What if there were some way to instill a particular thought in someone’s mind before you even say a word? Good news: There is!

Read More

My Favorite Attitude

Happy vs. sad face

Attitudes are simply personal orientations toward a particular person or thing. But some are bigger than others. One in particular has reigned as my favorite attitude much longer than most “favorites” (i.e., food, song, place, etc.).

Optimism.

Why Optimism?

For one, it’s a very strong predictor.

Optimism is a near pre-requisite for achievement. And the opposite is also true. To state it bluntly,

I’ve never met a pessimistic over achiever.

Continue reading “My Favorite Attitude”

Throw for the Catch

Receiver making a catch

It’s fourth and goal.

Time for one play to determine the winner of the game. You drop back to pass. One receiver’s wide open. You throw a “frozen rope” spiral — right on target. You hit the receiver so hard in the chest that there’s no way they don’t make the catch.

But they don’t. And you lose. (More than the game).

You race to the “would be” receiver, now crying and laying on the ground. “What’s wrong?!” you ask, amazed that the catch wasn’t made.

“You fwew it too hawd”, your 2-year old (nearly 3) whimpers.

How would this make you feel? Good play?

So, why? WHY, do we insist on presenting, solving, doing things our way when success so clearly depends on more than just you?

Continue reading “Throw for the Catch”

Who Cares? Presenting without presenting

You’re invited to make a presentation to a group for the purpose of enhancing some aspect of their knowledge or skill. By participating, attendees will receive credits required by their professional trade organization. Sound like an exciting opportunity? I wouldn’t expect folks to be lining up ahead of time to get a front row seat.

But you’ve prepared and agonized over (and over) what you’ll present for days and finally have your act together. As you assume the center of attention, you look out over the 100 or so individuals assembled. You get a sinking feeling. What are the real chances of making a difference with your presentation? “Why can’t all audiences look like the students in ‘Dead Poet’s Society” or the fans at a rock concert, or a football game?”

So what do most individuals do in this situation? Most press on with their prepared agenda. Sure, these presentations turn out to be ‘OK,’ but not the stuff that will go viral on the web. Some, however, do something different that truly makes the session stand out.

They don’t present.

Continue reading “Who Cares? Presenting without presenting”

Psychology at Work: Who cares?

Psychology Tips for Work

We are social animals in a psychological world.

This is true — even if you know someone who is more than a little introverted, or think that psychology is only for crazy people. This simple fact is at the crux of just about all, if not everything, we do. From teamwork and individual advancement to differences in judgment, we all are influenced by both of these realities every day, every where.

Psychology.  As Descartes put it so clearly, Cogito ergo sum (translation: “I think, therefore I am”). We are a thinking being — and more. That’s why psychology types use the word “cognition” so much.  The point is if you’re reading this, ‘cogs’ are turning in your head and you’re using, and even beholden to, the ‘stuff’ of psychology.

Social Animals.  We all depend on, appreciate, or want to be with someone — even if it’s to start a fight. Absent people, you’re literally – and figuratively – casting a mere shadow of yourself. If you think you might be a vegetable, this post’s not for you.

Bottom line: Anyone who’s dealt with a few children will agree, people are animals. (And no, we don’t grow out of it).

Even if you agree that the first line of this post is true, you may still puff, “Who cares?”

You, especially, should.

The ability to manage these truths could be the difference between believing (deliberate use versus “being”) ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ success or failure, and even life or death.

Continue reading “Psychology at Work: Who cares?”

Emotional Intelligence: Breakthrough or Been Through?

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence.

Unless you’ve been ‘hiding under a rock’ for the last 30 years, you’ve heard of this term. And, unless you’ve been in grad school for the same amount of time, you’ve probably used it. (Just kidding — sort of)

EI, as it’s commonly abbreviated, charged into mainstream popularity following Daniel Goleman’s, 1995 NY Times bestseller, “Emotional Intelligence.”

Generally referring to behaviors reflecting the awareness and management of one’s own and others’ emotions, EI was picked up by consulting firms faster than a lonely $100 bill on a casino floor. Today, EI is a multi-million dollar industry served by hundreds of consulting firms and assessed by nearly as many different psychological tools.

How did EI get so popular? Continue reading “Emotional Intelligence: Breakthrough or Been Through?”

Right vs. Influential: Which would you rather be?

Acceptance vs. Quality

Right vs. Influential?

Is this some kind of word game or a ridiculous question? Who cares? Wouldn’t right and influential be the same – or close enough?

In my humble experience: “Nope.”  And you should care.

Being right is NOT the same as being influential. Understanding this can make a BIG difference. By the end of this read, you may even agree that this quizzical question can make the difference between becoming the president of the United States — or not.

So, what’s the truth? Continue reading “Right vs. Influential: Which would you rather be?”

Flip it: The art of leveraged influence.

Ever find yourself defending or selling something that should be inherently obvious and valued? For example, pleading with a teenager to wake up for school, or justifying why a bonus is not up to the expectations of an employee.

What’s up with this? How can school fall to the rank of burden? Why is a bonus expected regardless of business circumstances?

A lot of things we do don’t make sense.

This is when it’s time to Flip It.

Continue reading “Flip it: The art of leveraged influence.”

Group vs. Individual Assessment Bias

Group vs. Individual Bias

“We are all underperforming, except for me — and my team.”

I hear this almost as many times as I ask the question, “How’s performance?”

You know the story: A leader takes a stand declaring the obvious, “we’re underperforming…”, while protecting him or herself and compatriots, “except for me and my team.”

How can group vs. individual decision making be so different?

This is probably the most pervasive and frustrating psychological bias I come across in the work environment; evaluating and/or treating individuals differently from groups. It happens ALL the time.

But you can use this bias to influence an entire organization.

Continue reading “Group vs. Individual Assessment Bias”