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The Power of a Thank You

Years ago (back in the 80’s), working with a great group of people, we designed and established an alternative high school. The first year of operation offered many lessons, but the one that sticks out the most is the power of a thank you.

During the course of the year I walked around the building quite a bit and visited classrooms—I was not the instructional leader, but the director of the organization.  During those “walk-arounds” I got the chance to see firsthand the many things that were going on, the challenges, the successes, and the hard work.  At the end of the year, each teacher received a personal note outlining all their good work and efforts I had seen and thanking them for it.  Here is just one example, one teacher volunteered after school to work with seniors as they prepared for the SATs.

I didn’t expect any response, but several of the teachers came down to the office to thank me! They shared that they had either rarely or never received a note from an administrator unless it was a reprimand.  What an eye opener for me! Like most of us, I was raised to say “please” and “thank you.”  What became clear is that these social niceties don’t always find their way into the world of work or leadership.   Those letters were a large deposit in my “relationship account” with the staff.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

 There has been tons of research and studies looking at money as a motivator. Most seem to agree, that yes, people want to make good money, but it is not big motivator.  What studies indicate is that intrinsic motivation has a greater impact than extrinsic motivation.  You can follow this link (http://intl-rop.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/19/0734371X11421495)  to a study entitled Intrinsic Motivation and Employee Attitudes: Role of Managerial Trustworthiness, Goal Directedness, and Extrinsic Reward Expectancy. Here is short excerpt:

“The authors analyzed real-world data from a representative sample of over 200,000 U.S. public sector employees. The results showed that employee engagement levels were three times more strongly related to intrinsic than extrinsic motives, but that both motives tend to cancel each other out…This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money).”

You can also read Does Money Affect Motivation (https://hbr.org/2013/04/does-money-really-affect-motiv ) answering the question does money engage us:

“The most compelling answer to this question isa meta-analysis by Tim Judge and colleagues. The authors reviewed 120 years of research to synthesize the findings from 92 quantitative studies. The combined dataset included over 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients.

The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak.”


7 Steps to a Perfect Thank You

  • Stop moving and make eye contact
  • Be specific
  • Be sincere
  • Don’t text or call—do it in person or write a note
  • Acknowledge their hard work
  • Let them know why it is important and how what they did supports your school’s vision
  • Be consistent

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  • Strategies for serving students with Autism
  • Creating a positive school/classroom culture
  • Leadership training and coaching
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Effective Instructional Practices
  • Differentiating Instruction
  • Effective Reading Instruction
  • Job-embedded, side-by-side, onsite coaching

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