Is your leadership language backed up by action? When you say "thank you" or other words typically used to express appreciation, be sure your behaviors back up what you've verbalized.
Insincere or automatic responses are no better than manipulative ones. As leaders, we know we're supposed to thank people who help us out. But when we don't have genuine appreciation behind the words, it shows.
It shows in ways that make you seem entitled, self-important, or arrogant.
Leadership Language Doesn't Waste Words
A throwaway "thanks" is just a wasted word. Think of how it makes you feel when you go above and beyond, hoping to please someone else, only to have your efforts be barely noticed. There is a huge difference between "thanks" and "this must have taken you hours! I really appreciate the time you spent." When you truly feel appreciative, you can express something more substantial than the generic "thank you."
It's how you say it, too. One time, I spent several hours helping a friend of a friend prepare for a leadership course she would be presenting. I loaned her some materials, too. After the event I called to see how it went and to reclaim my materials. She invited me to join her for coffee, a nice gesture of appreciation (or so I thought).
The coffee conversation was disappointing. I went in feeling appreciated and walked out feeling used. She was late and took three phone calls in 20 minutes while I sat there idly. In between calls, the words spoken to me were all about what she needed next. The “thank you” at the end of the abbreviated meeting (I developed a sudden need to be somewhere else) was meaningless.
Self-importance isn't what we intend to convey when we are too busy to show gratitude. But that's how it comes across. People who frequently cancel and reschedule meetings may not realize that this action basically says "there's something else I want to do, and it's more important than you." It inadvertently signals that time with you is not appreciated or valued.
This can happen in any part of our lives. How often do our children hear "not now," "I'm busy," or "stop bothering me?" We don't mean to say "I don't appreciate time with you" or "I’m not grateful for you" or "you're not as important to me as..." But that message may be what's being received.
No number of "thank yous" can take away those feelings. The actions – time spent, specifics articulated, attention given – must match the words spoken.
Of course, the reason for making sure your sincere appreciation is fully conveyed must also be pure. If your intentions are solely focused on getting more out of others, then you are manipulating rather than appreciating.
Show Genuine Appreciation
The next time someone does something for you, pause and consider what it took for them to help you out. Think about what it means to you. With this reflection, you can genuinely appreciate the actions taken. Now, rather than a cursory "thank you," you can communicate your heartfelt appreciation. You can make your time allocation, message, and tone match what you feel.