Monday, August 20, 2012

Manager Mondays: The After-Project Thank You Note

Welcome to Manager Mondays, a series dedicated to great workforce messaging.  Today we're looking at why it's good to mark a project's completion by sending out a formal thank you.

Last week when we wrapped the Global Leadership Summit for another year,  I walked around the premises as volunteers took down the huge simulcast screen, dismantled the video projector, packed up the registration table, and lugged countless trash bags out to the dumpster.  This two-day event allows me to be part of a large team that coordinates logistics and performs behind-the-scenes event management tasks.  My role as Event Producer can be exciting, but it's lightweight compared to most of the others' do-lists; when I closed up my laptop and left the control booth, most of the others were still hard at work.

As I helped them clear out the last boxes and reset the main conference room, I reflected about how much I love being part of a team putting on a live event.  And this particular team rocked!

When a project is over, it's tempting to go right on to the next challenge.  But we do ourselves a disservice when we fail to recognize everyone's hard work.  A pause is in order to give everyone the recognition they deserve.  Otherwise, when life goes back to its normal pace and things settle down, it can be a real letdown.

Several years ago, the Summit's organizers at the Willow Creek Association asked me to write a special section of their event handbook dedicated to saying thanks to team members after the Summit.  I share that page now with you, my blog reader, because I hope it sets up a solid case for marking the end of every significant project with a verbal bouquet of gratitude.

So take a page from my playbook, literally!  Express your appreciation whenever your team wraps up a group endeavor.  Do it before they disperse and get busy on the next big thing.  They'll love you for it -- and they'll feel validated for all their hard work.

(The following is adapted from the WCA Global Leadership Summit 2012 Producer and Technical Director Handbook.) 

Ten Things a Final Thank You Message Does

by Beth Rickert, Host Site 131

1. It leaves everyone with a positive last impression of their collaboration experience.
2. If a person's experience was good, a final thank you makes it even better.
3. If a person's experience was, shall we say, less than good — it makes them feel better.
4. It signals that your door is still open for feedback about processes (which can often lead to key process improvements for future events).
5. It gives people permission to contact you to clean up any hard feelings, concerns, or unresolved issues.
6. It models good leadership for your up-and-coming leaders.
7. It paves the way for further collaboration between you and various team members.
8. It encourages novice volunteers to volunteer again, and again.
9. It lets you recognize peoples' specific acts of service.
10. It provides one last chance to love people.

It would be a shame to overlook this powerful relationship-building opportunity!

Four Basics Things to Keep in Mind for a Killer Thank-You Communication

1. Who —Send a thank-you to anyone and everyone who was involved in any way. They all need to know how important their contribution was! (Tip: Go through your meeting invite lists and past emails to make sure you don't overlook anyone.)
3. What — Keep your message warm, direct, and upbeat — and keep it clean! By that we mean, this message is not the place to recruit people for your next project. It's a thank you. Period.
2. When — Send your note within a week after the team's last organized project-related task. (If you wait any longer, it may become old news.)
2. How — Use some kind of written format to convey respect. A mailed thank you card is best, but if pressed for time, an email is fine. Phone calls or personal conversations seem too off-the-cuff and aren't as effective. And absolutely NO text messaging — even for your close buddies, it's too informal.

Expressing Gratitude with the Right Attitude

Remember, as a final message to the team, the tone of your message is important. Speak from your heart and, when in doubt, write a first draft and show it to someone else to make sure it "sounds" right. Your final thank-you should be something that resonates all the way until next time — when your wonderful team members will once again climb back in the saddle for the next project!

What are your best strategies for acknowledging the hard work of your team?  Post a comment and let us know.

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