Ripple Effect


“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
- Voltaire

About a year and a half ago, I started a business--my third, in a city that was new to me and where I didn’t know many people.

Every day, I would get up, get myself ready and walk to work, which was located in my dining room, just a few feet from my bedroom.

Those first few months were tough. In fact, the first year was tough, but those first few months were especially hard and I recognized that I needed to do something to stay motivated and positive. You see, where I worked, there was no one to say hello to each day, no one to check in with to make sure I was on the right track and no one to tell me I had a done a good job.

More than any other time in my life, I needed to be valued, appreciated and reassured that I was doing good work that would produce positive results.

One day, I’m not sure why or how, I remembered a letter that my grandmother had given me years ago when my grandfather passed away. I dug it out of my storage area to take a look at it.

The letter was written to my grandfather by his boss in 1939. In fact, the letter was an “inter-office correspondence” so it was also addressed to all of my grandfather’s co-workers in addition to my grandfather. In the letter, my grandfather’s boss writes about how my grandfather had worked tirelessly and gone above and beyond the call of duty one day to fulfill the needs of a prospective client. Because of his persistent effort, my grandfather won the client’s business and my grandfather’s boss wanted everyone to know of my grandfather’s hard work.

I decided to put this letter in a frame and set it on my desk as a way to keep me motivated and inspired while I worked alone at my new business. I thought, “if my grandfather could work tirelessly to achieve results, I could certainly do it as well.”

Yet, every time I re-read the letter, there was something about the letter that would always stop me to think beyond the value of persistence.

At the end of the letter, after praising and recognizing my grandfather’s extra efforts, his boss makes a comment that will stay with me forever. In the very last paragraph of this interoffice correspondence, my grandfather’s boss writes, “But, without wishing to, in anyway, criticize any other man’s thinking or accomplishments, I want to leave the thought that here was a salesman with the right thinking and the ability to put it to the test—he knew his future depended upon his retailers and he took care of them to the nth degree.”

It’s the comment at the end that somehow goes beyond a simple thank you and recognition of persistence. The boss doesn’t just end with a short closer of “thanks again!” Instead, he says something bigger. He says, “without wishing to, in anyway, criticize any other man’s thinking or accomplishments.” In other words, he’s saying “I value all of you, just as much as I value him! And, I am simply acknowledging something extra here.” It’s that expression of appreciation that is more meaningful and goes beyond a simple thank you.

It’s this feeling of sincere appreciation that I like so much when I look at and think about this letter.

The funny thing is that not long after receiving this letter, my grandfather also won a sales award. In fact, I have a picture of him receiving the award in the back of the frame that holds the letter. But, what’s interesting is that my grandfather never kept the award—he kept the letter.

What’s more is that this letter of appreciation didn’t just impact my grandfather--it has impacted me. It’s as if my grandfather’s boss had thrown a rock into a pool of water that created a ripple effect that has lasted for more than 60 years--a ripple of effect of appreciation.

As managers and leaders, you each have the power to impact the lives of people you work with. It could be a letter of appreciation, it could be a note, it could be something special that you do for someone—and you may never know the long-term impact you have, but you will certainly see the positive short-term results from people who feel valued.

© 2005 Lisa Edwards




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