5 Ways to Say “Thanks” as a Leader (without a pay increase)

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. ~ Max Depree

Leaders must define reality, create urgency, and guide teams in a direction. But leaders must also say, “thank you.” They must continually express gratitude to those who are serving alongside them, who are working hard to advance the mission. Without thankfulness, the team culture grows cold and people can feel used. Surely financial support is one way to express appreciation, but here are five other ways to say “thank you”:

1. With verbal words

Saying “thank you” with specificity helps people know their work is noticed. To acknowledge their unique contribution shows you know what they do, that you understand their commitment. Affirming team members in front of other team members shows appreciation and also helps build a culture of gratitude. 

2. With written words

Handwritten notes and personal emails can go a long way in helping people understand how much you appreciate them. Peyton Manning, for example, has sent handwritten letters to certain NFL players upon their retirement, and the players have expressed how much they have treasured those simple notes.

Recently I took our leadership team away for two days to prepare and plan for the next season. I wrote each person a note and included with it a simple gift bag. I was blown away at how much that note mattered to many on the team. Their response to the note was convicting, as I realized I need to use my words more frequently to express how I feel about the people the Lord has blessed me with.

3. With time

Giving those on your team time helps them know you value them, and not just the work that they do. Time invested over a meal or a cup of coffee, is a wise investment of time in the team – a time where you can listen to a person’s story, dreams, and ideas.

4. With more responsibility

Leaders often long for more responsibility. A way to say “thank you” is to hand more responsibility to those who have proven faithful with their current responsibilities. It shows you trust them to steward more.

5. With more freedom

When someone proves to be faithful with fulfilling responsibilities, giving more freedom is appropriate. More freedom can be expressed in tweaking one’s own job, greater decision-making, and greater autonomy. High capacity people who excel in their roles feel appreciated with greater amounts of freedom.