The best way to thank someone and promote authentic appreciation

A hand written note on white paper stating "Thanks" on a desk next to a plant.

What do you think? To promote listening, empathy, collaboration, and your own leadership what are the keys to providing an appropriate thank you with authentic appreciation? Sharing a study from neuroscientists you may be surprised at their findings. Knowing the results of the study, what can you do to promote even better collaboration. Read on.


The best way to deliver a thank you


What do you think? Is it better to deliver a thank you with a text, an email, over the phone, virtually or in person? A recent study presented by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley may surprise you.

It goes without saying, that providing a thank you in any form is obviously better than doing nothing. We also need to be careful not to overthink this. The study looked at thanks in person, on a video call, and a text. If you are like most people and I put myself into that category, I expected an in person thank you to be the most impactful.

What the researchers found was that a text was most impactful.

Timeliness, concise commentary, and a lack of embarrassment all contributed to these findings.

Another study found that when you focus on what you are grateful for on a regular basis there was no significant difference between an in person or a video call. In turns out that thanking someone in person can be slightly more embarrassing for some.

One of the advantages of in person or video calls versus a text is that the person providing the thank you can also present their tone, body language, and facial expressions to provide a broader range of emotions. Extraverts tend to appreciate this more. However, the key point is to act with some form of thank you.


Management mantra


Something that I have shared based on no scientific study but based on 25 years in management with up to 1,200 employees and having taught managers management and leadership training over 15 years is a manta that has served me very well. It involved three elements. These are:

  • Catch employees doing something right at least once a week and thank them for it. Something specific.
  • Get them the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage
  • Give them a chance to shine in leadership and accomplishment

Let us look at each of these statements.

Catch employees doing something right at least once a week and thank them for it. Something specific

This is not just an “atta boy.” This is recognizing a contribution made on something or for someone for something. Be specific. Once a week? Yes, that can be hard with a broad span and geographic dispersion, and it may not always materialize, but it should be an active goal.

Having grown a group from nine technical employees and a support person to twenty-one technical employees in three different locations with two support employees this required some creativity. Asking other employees to do the same thing and share it with you as the manager to create a culture of affirmation made all the difference.

When you take the time to thank someone for something specific you can move that person and the organization forward in a positive way.

Keep in mind that 100% improvement can be a 1% improvement in one hundred small things. Think about that and think about what you can do to catch your people doing something right and thank them for it.

Get them the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage

How many times do we have to be the hero as the manager or leader to help others? Is that what our employees need or want? Well, sometimes. However, is that what you would want, or would you want to be more confident and more productive if you could address the situation yourself. To find out what resources your employees want you must ask them. The answers may surprise you. It may be training, a book, software, access to other members of your or another’s team, more time, time to do research, or something else. The only way to find out is to ask them. Once you do, collaborate with them. It may not be right now, but this might provide hope for the future. After a frank discussion just knowing and having been listened to can be enormously powerful too.

Finally, do you like to be micromanaged? Neither do your subordinates.

What can you do to give them more control, greater predictability and help break projects into smaller tasks so that you or others could help them?

Each of these three elements (control, predictability, and progress) help to reduce the stress response. Do what you can to help reduce stress with you subordinates to make their lives easier.

Give them a chance to shine in leadership and accomplishment

Everyone has a unique perspective of how they would like to have a chance to shine. It could be with volunteering, recognition, or something else.

You must ask them how you can help them shine. Then collaborate with them to make it happen.

Before conducting a keynote presentation for an organization, I ask to speak to a half dozen members to structure the event for that audience. Before speaking to the Grain Elevator and Associated Professionals (GEAPs) organization at their national conference one of the members shared with me that he has an employee that loves to speak to fourth graders each year in rural Kansas. He tells them they drive to school on a soybean (biodiesel) with the bus and write with a soybean (crayon) to get their attention. Then he asks them what we do around here. They tell him that they grow soybeans. He responds to them that, no we feed the world and we make feed for animals all over the world to bring protein to those that either have no or little protein to make their lives better. We enrich others’ lives and feed the world. Think how much this means to that employee to be able to do this. Now explore this with your employees.




You have a lot be grateful for. Reflect on this and then focus on appreciating others. Consider how you can expand on these simple ideas going forward. Be more active in looking for ways to thank others. Keep track of who you are thanking for what for a week and see how you do. Consider what you might do differently following week.

The mantra presented here can make a real difference. Consider how you can apply this where you work. By having an attitude to help, asking others what they think, and taking actions where you can, you may be surprised at what a difference this can make in terms of morale, customer satisfaction, and business results. Be patient, give it time, and have fun with this.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]