Most people realize the power our words have on others, but what’s surprising is the staying power of kind words and small acts of kindness. Here’s an example. We were teaching the skills of networking to a company in Houston and sitting in the middle of the room was a guy named John. John did not look particularly happy to be there. He was not engaged during the discussions and looked kind of grumpy.
At one point in the session, during a conversation about how Toastmasters can help people overcome their fear of public speaking, a young woman sitting at the front of the room mentioned there was a Toastmasters club inside their company. Then she turned around and spoke to John. “Remember when you sent me that email telling me that my Toastmasters’ speech was really great? I’ve never forgotten that! It was so kind and really made a difference for me because I was so nervous.”
John looked perplexed. She reminded him that it happened about “five years ago”. John beamed—and this was guy you wouldn’t think could beam. Kindness has a long shelf life.
Has someone done something nice for you? Practice kindness on a regular and timely basis.
Five things you can do that will be remembered by others:
#1. Say something nice, consistently
A McKinsey Quarterly survey showed that praise and commendation from managers was rated the top motivator for performance, beating out other noncash and financial incentives, by a majority of workers (67 percent). And, according to a 2016 study by The WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, receiving “recognition at work makes people feel more appreciated (92 percent); prouder of their work (86 percent); more satisfied with their job (85 percent); happier at work (86 percent); more engaged (83 percent); and more committed to the company (81 percent).” It’s interesting to note that in a “recognition-rich environment” the global research firm Gallup says,”employee feedback should be frequent ― Gallup recommends every seven days ― and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.”
#2. Kindness is not just the role of leadership
The focus on giving praise or thanking others isn’t solely a leadership responsibility. As an employee, no matter where you ‘sit’ in the organization, you can acknowledge or thank others. Give yourself permission to thank your manager or someone more senior for something they have done. If your CEO initiates a new program or policy you like, tell her when you see her in the elevator. Thanking your manager for something he does for you is not ‘sucking up’. Thank your peers, because they will remember―even years later! Kind words work in all directions.
#3. Congratulate people on their achievements, milestones, etc.
You wouldn’t think our remembering the birthday of one of the top tech gurus in Silicon Valley would matter to him. This is person who gets hundreds, if not thousands of messages a day, but he appreciated our little Happy Birthday greeting. Acknowledge your colleague’s birthdays, which may mean showing up for the cupcakes―even if you think you are too busy. Congratulate people on their promotions, awards or contributions to the community. Send handwritten cards. Have a box of cards on your desk stamped and ready to go.
#4. A small gift can be a surprise
Giving someone a personal gift such as a book is an act of kindness and can make quite the impact. When “Red Notice” by Bill Browder came out a friend sent it to us because she knew we’d like it. It’s not just the gift, it’s that the other person knows what you like. Here is what one leader asks his management team, “If I gave you $30 to buy a gift for each of your team members would you know what to buy?” What kind of wine do they drink? Do they love great olive oil? Would they like an indoor cycling class? Think about the people with whom you work, if given 30 bucks would you know what to buy them? Do you know them well enough?
#5. What I learned from you
If you are looking for a way to thank someone in a way that goes beyond the standard thank you verbiage think about how that person has had a positive impact on you. A woman who does multiple work secondments writes notes to those with whom she has worked and tells them what she has learned from them, before she moves on to her next assignment. Smart job seekers send a handwritten thank you note to the people they met after an interview, highlighting what resonated with them and advice that was given. And, they do it whether they get the job or not.
-Written by Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, business networking speakers and authors of Work The Pond! Use The Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life (Penguin/Prentice Hall) Shepa Learning Company
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