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The Power of the Written Note

Posted at 8:33 AM on Sunday, November 29, 2009

You've heard it your whole life, and your mother probably taught you too.  Handwritten notes are important and say something about who you are and your sincerity in regards to the message in the note.

You heard it again with thank you notes after interviewing for jobs.  You've heard it as a key "strategy" in networking and building relationships.

All of it is true, and yet, I observe fewer and fewer people doing it.

I've not received thank you notes from gifts.   I've not taken the time to send hand written notes in a variety of situations, choosing instead to send an email or even a tweet.

The value of a handwritten note is universal - for any part of our life, in any role that we play.  And while I know it, and have taught and written about it, I don't do it as well or as systematically as I should. 

And I'm betting you are much like me.

If any of this rings true for you, watch this video of teacher Dan Stroup (the video link is embedded in the story) who will set an inspirational example for you, and prove to you that if it is important, you can do it.

The story will inspire you, but I hope it does more.  I hope it prompts you to begin sending more handwritten notes, regardless of the reason.

Because when you do, you will make a difference in the lives of others.

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A Leadership Litany - Reasons for Leaders to be Thankful

Posted at 6:52 AM on Thursday, November 26, 2009

As leaders, we have many reasons to be grateful and to give thanks.  I've written alot about gratitude and giving thanks over the years, but on this Thanksgiving morning, I am thinking specifically about my role as a leader and all I have to be thankful for.

It is written in first person on purpose.  Please read it as if you wrote it, rather than casually observing it in third person.  It won't be perfect for youbut I hope it spurs you to adjust and add to the list for yourself.  So put on your leadership hat and read on.

. . . . . . .

As a leader, I am thankful for so many things . . .

 . . . for my team.  Without a team, I'm not able to learn and lead and make a difference.  They are part of the reason, source of some of the challenges and more of the joy.

 . . . for Customers.  These people pay the bills and allow us to do what we do.  You call call them whatever you want, but  without those to serve, there is no need to lead.

 . . . for opportunity.  Sometimes we make opportunities and sometimes they are given to us.  I am thankful for every leadership opportunity, even when they don't look like one at first.

 . . . for responsibility.  There is no question that leadership is a responsibility - some days there is more than I wish I had!  But with responsibility comes rewards and a chance to grow towards my potential.

 . . . for peers. They provide support, encouragement, and an example for me.  They make life easier and more fun.

 . . . for mentors.  Some I knew or know well, some are unknowing mentors.  Each has provided me examples, encouragement and more.

 . . . for thought leaders.  Carnegie, Drucker, Peters.  Kouzes, Posner, Bennis.  Roesler, Bock, Say.  This list is impossibly incomplete, but my gratitude is overwhleming.

 . . . for learning.  This goes beyond the mentors and thought leaders for in the end, I must make new ideas, techniques and approaches my own.

 . . . for goals.  They are the life blood of a leader.  If there are no goals, where are we leading? 

 . . . for ideas. For ideas give us new ways, approaches and opportunites to reach our goals.

 . . . for energy.  To produce the human capacity for growth, change and a better chance we can change the world.

 . . . for purpose.  Which gives me reason to do what  do, gives me focus to keep me on track, and reminds me what really matters.

 . . . for values.  To keep me grounded, and reminding me that from these foundational ideas come my strength, abilities and many of the other things on this list.

 . . . for family.  For without them all of the goals, effort and time wouldn't be worth it.

 . . . for God.  Who made all the rest possible and who has given me more blessings than I can even fathom.

I'm sure my short litany won't cover all of your list. It is my hope that it inspires you to stop, be thankful, and add to it as appropriate. If you feel led to add to this list in a comment, I, and everyone else that reads this, will be thankful too.

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Look. See. Be Grateful.

Posted at 5:18 AM on Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This is the seventh of 16 daily posts I'm writing on lessons I've learned over 16 years in business. You can scroll down to read the earlier posts in this series and you can read the introductory post here.


Warning. I'm not going to tell you anything in this post that you haven't heard before. And yet reading it and looking for your lessons, is part of my point. Read on with an open mind - and look for your lessons.

This is a message we teach our kids at a very young age. Once they learn how to talk - and say the basic words like "Mommy" and "Daddy" (or in my case "tractor" - sounding like "trabbor" - which as the story goes was my first word), we want to teach them to say thank you. Not only do we want them to learn these two words, we want them to know when to use them.

I wrote about this in my book Vantagepoints and find it is one of the chapters people comment on regularly. We all "get" this. We learn to say thank you to be gracious and grateful. And, throughout our lives we are pretty good about it for basic things, like when someone lets us cut in the grocery line because we only have milk, or someone gives us a gift, and some of us are even good at it when people pay us a complement.

My lesson today though isn't just about saying thank you, which while important, should be an outcome, rather than the goal - I'm not, after all, in case you haven't noticed, Miss Manners.

One of the lessons I have learned over the past 16 years in business is that gratitude is vitally important to our self image, our attitude, and our success.

You might be thinking that in order to be grateful, we must have things happening in our lives to be grateful for, right?

This is true, but hardly a limited factor for any of us.

There is plenty for all of us to be grateful for each day. But the most important things won't be obvious.

How we are supposed to be grateful for things that aren't obvious or we don't even notice. (I'm glad you asked).


We must open our eyes and look expectantly to find good things in our world. Actually we can use all of our senses - the song on the radio, the smell of freshly baked pie, the feel of your favorite fall coat. We can "look" with all of our senses. And we should search expecting to find them. After all, if you want to find your keys, you don't look half-heartedly, you look expecting to find them. Look for things you can be grateful for. You will be surprised how many things you will find.


This may seem obvious after telling you to look expectantly. Recognize that even in the tough stuff and disappointments, we will find things to be grateful for when we look. Here are two quick examples.

On more than one occasion we have lost a chance at a large Client project - sometimes when we thought it was a done deal. When I remembered to look expectantly, I found lessons and opportunities in those "adversities" that could be grateful for both then and now. When my Dad died, it didn't seem there was much to be grateful for in that situation. Yet, even in the days immediately following that surprise, there were literally hundreds of things to be grateful for. Had I not been looking for them, they'd have gone by unnoticed.


When we can put a face on the gratitude, of course we should say thank you. But much of what you will find won't have an obvious person to thank. If you believe in a Higher power, thank them. If you believe in Karma, be thankful to it. Some people write a gratitude journal, writing down the things they are grateful for. Some people have personal, family or team rituals to provide a process for acknowledgement. Find what works for you, but find ways to acknowledge your gratefulness.


We are given gifts each day. They can aid us in our life's journey in a philosophical way, but they can have a real impact on us day to day as well. As you develop your gratitude radar and habit, you will find your attitude improving. After all, why wouldn't it, if you are seeing all of the wonderful things in your life? You will find yourself more confident, proactive and productive. And you will find greater success in your life, however you measure it.

Gratitude isn't just about "thank yous" and thank you cards. It is a way to create new learning, attitudes and results in your life. But in order for that to happen you must look, see, acknowledge and use.

So what are you grateful for right now?


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The Power of Gratefulness

Posted at 7:26 AM on Friday, March 09, 2007

It seems everywhere I look, turn or listen I find messages about gratitude. I've always been a person who tries to "count my blessings" and be grateful for the wonderful (and even the not-so-wonderful) things in my life.

I believe that when we need greater lessons and understanding of a topic or idea, if we listen, those lessons will be made available to us. The more I "notice" lessons on gratitude, the more I'm convinced I was ready for deeper lessons.

I have in the past few months become more disciplined about being in a state of gratitude and reminding myself of the things I am grateful for each day. There is no question that this practice is making a difference in my life.

This is not just a personal "feeling better about myself and my world" topic either - there is loads of research that shows that when we are more grateful we build relationships more effectively, communicate more positively and are more effective and efficient. Note this recent post in Curt Rosengren's wonderful Occupational Adventure blog.

It describes a fascinating study of the tangible benefits of being grateful. I encourage you to read it.

Here is an exercise to try today. Before your next meeting, take 2 minutes to write down five things you have to be grateful for over the past two weeks. These can be small or large things - it doesn't matter. Notice how you frame issues and communicate differently in the meeting.

Once you have done this for yourself a couple of times, take a bigger risk (it really isn't a risk but it might feel like one right now) and ask everyone in the meeting to do the same thing.

This isn't a sharing exercise - reassure people that they won't be asked to share what is on their list - it is a personal gratitude exercise.

Taking this action will create a new energy and focus for your meeting. You will create more ideas, and more positive, encouraging conversation.

This is just one example reflecting on your gratitude. (If you are immediately interested and want some other ideas go here.) In the coming weeks and months, I might well have more to share in this area. But even if I don't, this one exercise can make a positive difference in your life when you do it.

Also posted in Creativity, Customer Service, Leadership and Teamwork.

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