“Thank you” magic: 5 creative tactics

Virtually 100% of the managers I’ve worked with are in the market for new, fast, easy, creative, and impactful ways to motivate team members. (Oh and did I mention, they have little or no budget for this?)

If you’re part of this crowd, consider expanding your repertoire of tactics to thank employees. Most leaders vastly underestimate the appetite their team members have to hear that they and their contributions matter.

In a recent Inc. Magazine article, “7 Simple Ways to Say Thanks to Your Team,” leadership expert Lee Colan gets straight to the point: “ … people do more for those who appreciate them. Although leaders widely recognize the need for appreciation, it tends to be a blind spot.”

Building a stronger “thank you” habit pays off rapidly for leaders. Besides increasing motivation, the most common side effects of showing your team gratitude include stronger relationships, trust, and feedback credibility. When you notice and call out what people do well, they gain trust in (and respond much better to) your constructive criticism. Positive feedback also increases team productivity. As Colan put it: “Research by former Gallup chairman Donal Clifton revealed that work groups with at least a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions were significantly more productive than those having a less than a 3-to-1 ratio.”

When you say “thank you” verbally or by writing a note, be specific. If you can’t yet thank someone for their results but sense they need a boost, remember you can thank them for other things: their efforts, their hard work, their great attitude(s), their impact on the team, their creativity, or for how much they care about clients, the quality of their work, their teammates, etc.

To really make your appreciation stand out, be creative in how you say “thanks.” Here are 5 of my favorite ways to supercharge an employee or group with appreciation:

1. Mail a note of thanks to an employee’s family

“Thank you for sharing Jim with us in 2015 and supporting the great work he does with our team. He’s an amazing marketer and we’re so lucky to have him!”

2. Use Postagram to send a high-impact, physical thank you note in a flash

If you have no patience for digging up stamps and envelopes (or no one can read your handwriting anyway!), consider sending a thank you postcard to an employee’s home via the Postagram app on your smart phone. Using my iPhone, it took me exactly 82 seconds and 99 cents to type a few sentences of gratitude to a friend and snap a photo earlier today (I could also have selected a picture from my camera roll or Facebook).

3. Schedule a potluck team lunch

Even if budgets are low at year end, this one’s affordable and fun, to boot. Make sure to take a few minutes during the lunch to express thanks for recent team accomplishments.

4. Schedule a recurring 10 minute to-do item on your calendar in 2016 called “Skip Level Thanks”

Once a month (or at any other frequency), stop and consider who on your team most deserves a tipped hat for recent efforts. Arrange for your boss to swing by that person’s desk or send a note of thanks. Recognition from your manager’s manager is extremely powerful, but we often forget to press this tactic into action.

5. Strengthen your team’s culture of gratitude

Don’t hog the gratitude limelight and fun! Start carving out 5 or 10 minutes from each weekly or monthly team meeting for several team members to publicly recognize colleagues’ good deeds, help, accomplishments, or other acts deserving of thanks. This pays off big. Team members begin to continuously scan their work environment for colleagues who are doing positive or generous things. And quickly become more aware of doing things teammates will appreciate/ mention.

According to Colan, a recent Harris poll found that a shocking “65% of polled workers reported receiving no recognition for good work in the past year.” Don’t let your team be among those who feel unloved! Remember: people work more – and work harder — for managers who regularly recognize them. Become the standout leader who not only says “thanks,” but who does so in a memorable way.

This article first appeared on Catalyze.