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Average reading time: 2 minutes

Thank you.

These are two small, yet incredibly powerful words that can so easily be overlooked by leaders and team members.

During the entire 12-month period of preparing for and deploying on my second tour of duty to Iraq, I cannot recall a single time when our Commanding Officer expressed any appreciation for the work that my squadron was doing.

And whilst this was by no means the main reason I left the Army, it was one of the final nails in the coffin so to speak.

Don’t get me wrong though I was, and continue to be, very self-motivated. I didn’t want or need much in the way of thanks.

But it is noticeable when it’s totally absent. And the soldiers whom I had the privilege and responsibility to lead would have appreciated it hugely.

I’m doing a lot of research at the moment studying the world’s most successful teams in different arenas. It’s still too early to distil my findings down into a few pearls of wisdom, but it’s clear that a simple, authentic appreciation of gratitude underpins much of what enables teams to be great. For example;

  • Building psychological safety within the team…a thank you helps.
  • Encouraging healthy conflict…thanking those that are brave enough to speak up undoubtedly helps.
  • Maintaining morale…a thank you helps.
  • Creating a learning culture…thanking someone who was brave enough to share their mistake and what they learned from it absolutely helps.

Throughout my career I’ve spotted a trend where the more senior you become, the more clipped your written communication tends to be. It’s not the case for everyone, but it’s certainly ‘a thing’.

Many years ago, I made a commitment to be the politest leader I know.

I’ll always say thank you to those that have helped me.

Sometimes people challenge me on this and say;

“Why should I thank someone for just doing their job?”

My answer?

Because they are a human beings.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

Because it’s a fundamental building block of great teams.

And because regardless of circumstances, people always have a choice about whether or not they continue to work for you. If you don’t mind your p’s and q’s, as they say, people might just decide to move on…as I did in Iraq.

Paying it forward

I have four sets of Thank You cards to give away so that you can thank those that have helped you. To win a set, simply share this post on social media, remembering to tag me and I’ll enter your name in the draw.


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  • I have utter empathy Ben. I have always been self motivated but I can look back on literally years of effort that went without comment. There is an assumption that people are working hard for their careers when many times they are working hard for the team. A short, simple, personal thank you can give you enough energy to do it all for another two years without flinching. If only the hierarchy thought about it more often rather than thinking it was just part of the norm and therefore get on with it.

    Posted: 30th April 2019

    • Thanks for commenting Martin – I really appreciate it. It’s always good to know when my blogs are resonating with other people…gives me confidence that I’m not just an idealist !

      Posted: 30th April 2019

  • Your Thank You cards are always appreciated Ben and it makes a huge statement about you as a leader. Thank you!

    Posted: 7th June 2019

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