4 Ways Leaders Can Express Gratitude to Those They Manage

Max Depree once said that the best people on your team are really volunteers, no matter if you pay them or not. They are volunteers because they can utilize their skills and talent elsewhere and they choose to utilize them on your team. Which means, of course, that you must lead with much more than money, much more than the promise of more or the threat of less. Poor leaders rely on extrinsic motivators because they are incapable of leading with something deeper. If you view everyone on your team as a volunteer, it will impact how you motivate them and how you express gratitude to them. Here are four important ways, beyond saying “thanks” and beyond giving financial increases, leaders can and should express gratitude to those they manage.

1. Develop them

When you develop someone, you assure that person of his or her value to the team, both now and in the future. When you invest time in coaching conversations, in group learning, and character development, you show that you care for the person, not just the work the person is accomplishing.

2. Give additional responsibility

For some, receiving additional responsibility is the greatest way to believe they are appreciated. Giving someone on your team more responsibility shows you trust and respect the person, and being trusted and respected is worth a lot.

3. Hold other team members accountable

If people on the team fail to execute and are not held accountable, then those on the team who are executing feel under-appreciated and under-valued. They can easily feel the leader does not understand the difficulties that the mediocrity is creating for them. When you hold the whole team accountable, the best leaders feel appreciated.

4. Give more freedom

More freedom can express itself in a multitude of ways: freedom to take on some tasks outside of one’s role, freedom to work remotely, freedom to pursue education on the side, freedom to adjust when one works (not the amount), freedom to try something new, freedom to make a change, and the list goes on and on. When you reward team members with freedom, they know you value them.

Of course, expressing gratitude with development, additional responsibility, accountability, and freedom takes more time—meaning it takes real leadership and not simply processing a pay increase (which is good too, but insufficient).