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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Priceless Handwritten Note

Lately, I've been overwhelmed by the signs pointing me to the importance of the small gesture of the handwritten note.  Here are the signs:
  • A few months ago,  my husband came home from a leadership training session conducted by Studer Group  and told me the most important take away he received was the strong encouragement by the consultants to write a least two thank you notes a week to someone he worked with and to send the note to their home.  He has started this practice, and even though it has been something strongly encouraged by the organization to do (some may say a forced thing instead of a natural thing, but they are instilling a behavior by making it a habit),  he has been pleasantly surprised when he has gotten several notes himself sent to our home. 
  • I'm working on a career facilitator certification and yesterday I got this link- The Number 1 Mistake People I Interview Are Making These Days that my instructor posted to her learning platform.   Although the writer advocates for an email thank you to follow up after an interview,  I think a handwritten note would be even better.
  • I went to a funeral today for a beloved grandmotherly figure in my life.  Both ministers talked about how she was constantly writing notes to people, in particular, writing notes in books that she would give to others.  This small gesture that she did often, in part, defined  the kind of person she was. 
  • And again, today,  this clip appeared on NBC Nightly News about a teacher who sends handwritten birthday cards to all of her former students.
Although my encounters with the importance of a simple, handwritten gesture have been frequent lately, I think the value of this gesture comes from its infrequency in today's world.  If we need to thank someone, we send a quick email, if that.  And while valuable, how much more valuable would a handwritten, mailed note be?  I know I have kept several handwritten notes to me over the years, have you?

So what does this mean for leadership?

Writing notes to others can be a powerful motivational tool because it shows people that they are important to you.  They matter.  And if we are all honest with ourselves, we all want to be seen as important, especially to those that serve as our leaders.

So, as encouragement to those striving to be leaders or those that already serve in a leadership role, take the time to write handwritten notes to people.  Here are some suggestions:
  • Buy some nice, personalized stationery.
  • Put this stationery in several places, at home, at work, in your car, etc. so it easy to write a quick note whenever you find the need to acknowledge someone for a job well done or thank someone.  
  • If you are a scheduled person, set aside 10 minutes to either start your week on Monday or end your week on Friday by writing notes to those that have impacted you during the week.
  • Whether related to a leadership role or not, if you ever interview for a job, send a note to the interviewer/hiring manager as soon as you finish the interview.  Make it the first thing you do when you return home from the interview.
  • Start by sending notes to those that are closest to you.  I find that these people are the ones I oftentimes take for granted the most or forget to thank... your spouse,  your parents, your secretary, your right-hand man or woman at the office, the employee that always pulls through we great results, your best friend, the boss that you appreciate but never tell... thank them first. 
  • If you come across a book that you like or that reminds you of someone, write a note inside the cover and send it to them. 
  • And finally, it does not have to be long.  Two or three heartfelt handwritten sentences can go a long way towards making people feel valued. And isn't that what we are striving to accomplish as leaders, making people feel valued when they are?
What other suggestions do you have for letting people know they are valued?

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