JOEL ADAMS

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Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Bad Habits Leaders Need to Eliminate: # 17, Failing to express gratitude, the most basic form of ba


I have a lot to be grateful for. I was born a member of the baby boom generation in a middle class family who provided me with a wonderful education and the opportunity to become a success in life. If you are reading this, you are probably a professional, you probably have a good education, live in a nice home, and have an above average income. You may be healthy and have loving people around you. Most likely, you have a lot to be grateful for.

Thinking about our professional lives, how much of our success is due to those around us and those who work for us? If you are like me, then without your current and previous managers and mentors, subordinates and supporters, you would not be the success that you are. But, do we really express our gratitude enough?


The two sweetest words to people’s ears are “Thank You.” They are magic. People love to hear these words whatever the context. So use them broadly and liberally.

Here is a very specific case where many successful professionals including me fall down. If your co-workers or people you lead feel brave, they may offer you a suggestion about how your organization could be improved. If they are really feeling brave, they might even bring you some bad news. And if they are feeling super brave, they just might be willing to give you some feedback on how you could improve as a leader. Well, if you are anything like me, in each of these cases the natural tendency is to immediately begin to evaluate the feedback the person gives and then start telling them what you agree with and what you don’t agree with. This is a big mistake.

When given any of these types of feedback, two simple words are the correct response, “Thank you.” This is not just about being friendly and nice. This is about people’s willingness to bring you feedback in the future. Saying “thank you” keeps people talking to you. Failing to say “thank you” shuts them down. Sure it cuts against our natural desire to be right and to win. It goes against my natural response to be defensive and justify all of my behavior. But biting your lip, resisting the temptation to immediately start debating and just saying “thank you” opens the floodgates to future information.

And don’t think you can say ‘thank you’ first and then start debating the points. Because that “thank you” will be lost in the rest of the conversation. The individual will remember the tone of the conversation, which will have become a debate. By just saying “thank you”, the only tone is gratitude. You want this conversation to end with the individual feeling appreciated. Besides, not immediately responding beyond “thank you” gives you time to really reflect on the feedback.

People understand that just because you say thank you doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them, but they appreciate the fact that you are considering their point of view. The more you tell those around you that you appreciate them, the more help they will give you.


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