What impact does a genuine demonstration of appreciation have on another person? I learned the answer when one of the best people I ever hired left my startup.
On her last day on the job, she reminded me of a note of appreciation that the CEO and myself sent her. I was able to dig up the note:
[NAME], Arik and I spoke today about how you’ve been keeping the [TEAM] team executing at very high speed no matter what distractions and complexities are being thrown your way. We wanted to say that we appreciate you and the high standard of execution that you’re setting for the whole company.
Her years at the company were full of powerful experiences good and bad. Yet this note – a 5-minute effort to convey my appreciation – made a lasting impression that stuck with her. I’m baffled by how easily I could’ve skipped writing that note that day.
Frank Blake, the legendary CEO of Home Depot, made his lasting impression by sending 25 thousand handwritten notes of appreciation to his employees. Over his 7-year tenure, Frank spent half of every Sunday writing these notes to distinguished employees, many of whom proudly framed and put their precious notes up on display. These notes are what made Frank a legend.
Withholding appreciation is destructive, some say immoral. The reason my employee eventually left was that she didn’t feel as appreciated anymore. My appreciation for her only grew stronger, but after 2 years I didn’t bother saying it out loud, to take a moment and acknowledge it, and she felt that.
There are many reasons that we don’t show enough appreciation:
We think it but don’t bother saying it
We always want more and better from people
We paradoxically take the very best and most important people for granted
We are too busy to actually notice and appreciate
We postpone it for tomorrow
These are lame excuses at best, none is a good reason.
This blog helped me re-appreciate appreciation. Doing something completely new and revealing, having no idea how good or terrible I am, then publishing and hearing crickets. It was an odd feeling. Then one random person says one little positive thing, a friend mentions how they learned something useful, and I’m instantly launched to the top of the world. I forgot what it feels like to be thirsty for appreciation and not get it.
This article is for my future self (hey!). A public reminder to not forget this feeling. To be more like my wife – an infinite well of gratitude and appreciation – and less like myself.
To the hundreds of people who helped me along the way, and to that particular employee – I appreciate you.