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Small Business Tips

How to Be Thankful for Your Team This Year

Dayna Steele
Multi-ethnic business women celebrating an achievement of a colleague at start up office

The fourth week of November holds my favorite holiday of the year. It is the official opening of gravy season, the one time a year I allow myself massive amounts of gravy on just about anything that doesn’t move.

Also, it is the time of year many people choose to give thanks and talk about what and who they are grateful for. There’s a good feeling when you know someone appreciates you. Plus, it is motivating when someone understands what you do for them. And, this not only applies to personal relationships but also professional ones.  

For leadership, this means letting your staff know you recognize what they do for and that you appreciate it. Here are a few ideas to get you started and in the habit of thanking your team:

Tokens of appreciation

Bonuses are the best financial appreciation tool. Still, not all of us are in a position to pay generous bonuses, if any, at all. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little money or time to show your appreciation.

Andy Levine, the creator of the Rock Boat and Sixthman, is a big proponent of handwritten thank you notes left on employees’ desks, often with a Starbuck’s or other gift card enclosed. A $10 gift card goes a long way towards making someone’s day. Professionally designed card templates and certificate templates make it easy to create and print a customized message.

BELFOR Inc. CEO Sheldon Yellen hand writes birthday messages to over 9,000 employees every year as well as handwritten notes to say thank you, congratulations, etc.

Recognizing value

Be open to new ideas and suggestions from your employees. Implement as many as you can. It makes people feel valued when you do that. And, if it doesn’t work, say thanks, move on, and try the next one. Also, give your managers the ability to try and implement new ideas as well.

And, if one of those ideas works, don’t forget that handwritten note. (You really should make a note to say thanks for trying as well.)

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Have fun

Create regular events that bring the staff together away from work, even if it is just Pie Day in the conference room. The Texas Tribune does this every year the week before Thanksgiving to give employees a chance to practice baking and eating pies.  

I used to put a “Closed for Inventory” sign on the front door of The Space Store and take my employees next door to the nail salon for surprise pedicures. The key to doing something fun for employees is not to make them go but rather make them WANT to participate. Because it’s fun.

Help people help others

The producers of the hit Broadway musical Come From Away give casts and crews worldwide $100 each on September 11th to do something kind for others. It is a tradition created by the real “Kevin” one of the show characters is based on.

Some companies give their employees a day off with pay every quarter to spend the day volunteering somewhere. I always like to say, “The more you do to help someone else be successful, the more successful you become.” This is right up that alley.

Remember, they are people too

Last, there is nothing more special than knowing someone actually understands you and shows it. Take the time to get to know your employees, their interests, their hobbies, their lives. Do they have kids, are they taking care of a sick parent, is there something they need to get off their shoulders?

The late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy would occasionally bring a sack lunch and join employees during their lunch hour outside on a beautiful day in Washington, D.C. It was a time to get to know each other, laugh, tell stories, ask questions, whatever.

How do I know this? He used to sit down on occasion with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, who both worked for the FBI. My uncle once said, “It made one of the big guys seem like one of us.”

Happy Thanksgiving

The key to making this all work and adding to the success of your company is practice this all the time, year-round. Everything but the eating gravy part–probably best to do that just once a year.  

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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