May 30, 2008

The Power of Saying Thank You

Yesterday a colleague asked me to help him locate a particular sort of precedent that was not all that common. When I asked him about his time frame, his reply was "the usual." (Based on prior experience, I knew that the best translation for that was "yesterday.") After quickly reorganizing my schedule, I turned to his request only to discover that what he needed wasn't easy to find. Consequently, I had to hunt for some reasonably similar agreements that could provide sufficient drafting guidance to help him create the required document efficiently. After some focused effort, I was able to send him a few options in relatively short order.

Today I received the following e-mail from him: "This was really incredibly helpful! Thanks again for the quick turn around."

With those two brief sentences, he made a huge positive impact on my day.

So much of what we do in law firm knowledge management seems buried in the infrastructure. As long as the knowledge management system works, people often forget to thank us. Add to that the fact that the lawyer population is great at issue-spotting and quite confident in its ability to do your job better than you do, and you have a situation in which it can at times be a little disheartening to be a knowledge manager. Given this context, my colleague's expression of thanks was doubly appreciated.

This is a small slice of my life, but others have had similar experiences. Seth Godin writes in his blog about the potential power of "honest recognition" for work well done as opposed to "mumbled thanks." Even mighty Microsoft has a guide to gratitude entitled The Power of Saying Thank You. Add to that the following snippets from a Fortune article, "Why saying `Thank you' is more than just good manners, reporting on a study of 200,000 managers and employees over a 10-year period that found that:
People will work harder and more enthusiastically for an appreciative boss, and companies that praise topnotch performance are more profitable than those that don't.
It seems saying "thank you" is even more important in retaining people than paying them more money - and a pat on the back is free.
At the end of the day, remembering to say thank you helps make your organization a much more rewarding place in which to work. And, given the number of hours we spend at the office, who wouldn't support that?

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