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The Art of an Adequate Thank-You

The holidays always elicit a flashback to the one thing that wasn’t so “joyous” for me as a kid: the thank-you notes. Many of us had parents who made us write to everyone who gave us presents—and not just during the holidays either. For us kids, it was a chore. In retrospect, I now see that, for our parents, thank-you notes were a way to build stronger relationships.

In business, I believe these are three of the most important words: “draft” and “thank you.” One of Dale Carnegie’s fundamental human-relation principles is to “give honest, sincere appreciation.” Writing a genuine thank-you note is a professional skill that can make a lasting, favorable impression.

I can’t imagine how my elders, not to mention Dale Carnegie, would react if they received today’s version of a thank-you note: a text expressing, “THX!” Just as the lack of a proper thank-you might bring tension to a family holiday meal, in business it can mean lost opportunities. Properly expressing appreciation goes a long way in nurturing relationships and remaining top of mind for your clients, customers and vendors.

The art of an adequate thank-you hasn’t been completely lost. We have several clients keeping up the practice, and seeing impressive results. I can cite clients whose letters have inspired donations, meetings leading to increased business and even a thank-you for the thank-you!

Here are my tips for crafting a strong, professional thank-you letter:

  1. Snail mail it. Even if you send a short email immediately, a mailed letter makes you stand out and is a must to convey sincerity and professionalism.
  2. Go deep on the personalization. Your recipients shouldn’t think they have received a form letter. Personalize beyond the name and facts by, for example, restating the gift or action you appreciate as well as how it impacts you, your staff and your business or mission.
  3. Prioritize. Get it written and in the mail ASAP. Thank-you letters don’t belong on the “I’ll get to it later” list.
  4. Be inclusive. Don’t just thank the CEO. Include the staff as a whole or specific employees by name who contributed to the action for which you are grateful. Send each staff member a personalized note too.
  5. Don’t ask for ANYTHING! A request will send sincerity right out the window.
  6. Own it. While being careful not to overdo it, keep up the practice year-round and make it part of your routine.

We’re in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year. Look around. People aren’t only kinder to each other, but they go out of their way to act courteously and say “thank you.” Being polite, professional and appreciative will undoubtedly enhance your relationships. It is a practice that leaders need to employ and prioritize year-round. So, as you race from one meeting to another, drown in emails and manage the demands of your daily stress, remember the power of showing gratitude—and make someone’s day by saying (or writing) “thank you.”

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