The Power of 'Thank You'

The Islander – November 2023

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Giving praise and recognition has a direct impact on crew morale

It has long been recognised that a simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done as a disproportionately positive effect on morale. As John Adair wrote, “Praise and recognition based on performance are the oxygen of the human spirit.”

It’s human nature, we are quick to criticise.  How many opportunities do we let slip by when we could have celebrated a success or a job well done? Whether it be for personal accomplishments such as passing exams or buying a home, or going the extra mile at work, such as helping out another department, success should be noted and celebrated.”

Going out of your way and catching people doing great ‘things’ not only motivates the individual who receives the praise, but sets the standard for the group and encourages others to follow suit. When it comes to getting the culture you want on board, it has been proven time and time again that rather than telling people the behaviour and standards you want (push technique),  giving recognition when you see the behaviours you do want and leading by example has far greater impact.

At the core is how people feel. When our contributions have been noticed and commented upon, we feel valued. In turn when we feel appreciated and valued, confidence is boosted, motivation and productivity increases, and so does a positive atmosphere. The added bonus is that you too are buoyed up through the process of giving praise.

It’s important that credit is given where credit is due, fairly and appropriately. So how do you ensure that the praise and recognition is appropriate and tailored to the individual? For example an introvert would prefer a discreet ‘thank you’ rather than public accolade. By contrast some extroverts would prefer to be made the centre of attention. Add to this different nationalities with their cultural differences, and getting it right can be a minefield.  One solution is to simply ask your crew what they would value.

Giving recognition does not necessarily need to be expensive. A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ can be enough, however, doing so continually, will over time, become meaningless and superficial. A personal, hand-written thank you note can be powerful. Henry Ford would sit at his desk every morning and write his thank you notes. What do you think happened to these notes when they were received by one of the Ford Manufacturing Plants? Photocopied and given to each member of staff, with the original being framed and put on public display. Every time a staff member saw the framed note, it would fill them with a sense of pride.

If notes don’t seem suitable, getting the team together to thank them as one, potentially with an event or activity, can be a good option. An early finish or extra day off is also a great way to recognise the team as a whole.

However, there are a couple of cautions to note. As leaders, keeping the recognition in proportion to the effort is crucial. Rewarding an experienced crew member for the same performance as a newbie will not be motivating. In addition once you set a precedent there can be an expectation that this will continue. For example, after every charter ‘we get two days off’, or ‘are taken out for a meal’. It’s important to mix it up and vary the rewards. Equally, if money is used to reward or recognise it can become expected. I recently heard a story of a new owner, part way through his first trip, giving each crew member a 100 dollar note, to say thank you as he was having such a great time, which he repeated this at the end of the trip. The crew were delighted as they didn’t expect tips from their new owner. On his next visit he repeated the $100 tip, but this time only once at the end of his visit. And yes, you guessed it, the crew were disappointed and demotivated. Not what the owner had intended!

Giving praise and recognition has a direct impact on crew morale, and finding new and innovative ways to do this is equally as important as finding more efficient ways to do your job or save on the budget. A happy crew is a productive and loyal crew; the benefits by far outweigh the effort it takes to say a heartfelt ‘thank you!’.

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