The Power of Little Gestures

By on May 22, 2013

By Gary Young, GaryYoungInk

A week ago, my wife, Pam, and I were in the Newark airport awaiting our flight home to Minneapolis.  Pam noticed two military men having a sandwich before their own flight. Seeing that that they didn’t have anything to drink, she said, “I’m going to ask them if I can get them anything.”  My initial reaction was that familiar tug of Minnesota self-effacement.  (Like Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” noted, “Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, but so far all we’vgaryyounginke gotten is Minnesota and North Dakota.”)

Then I thought, such a little gesture would probably go a long way in expressing our appreciation.

A Little Thanks
One should never underestimate the power of small gestures. The impact can make a huge difference. For example, I read recently that former Nabisco CEO Douglas Conant made it a point every day to write five to ten personal notes of gratitude to employees and others. What’s better than receiving a handwritten thank-you note – especially when it’s unexpected?

In The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies, author Steve Harrison cites a number of little decencies we can do in the workplace. At the top of the list is “Remember to say thank you-or better yet, write thank you notes.” Others include:

  • Greet coworkers authentically and personally
  • For meetings you convene, be the first to sit down and the last to get up
  • Welcome visitors by name. Better yet call them “guests”
  • Answer your own telephone
  • Give away recognition when things go well; hoard responsibility when they don’t
  • Convey bad news in person
  • When you make a mistake, admit it and apologize

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