The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

How Every Leader Should Write a Handwritten Thank-You Note

how to write a handwritten thank-you note

Every day in your office, there are opportunities to lead.

The moments may happen in real-time during a team meeting, client presentation or some other face-to-face exchange.

Often, though, the most powerful displays of leadership happen without a sound or public fanfare. They come in the form of handwritten thank-you notes left on the desks — or in the mail cubbies — of employees.

First, a handwritten thank-you note from a boss or manager takes the employee by surprise. Before the person even reads the message, he/she feels like a million bucks. “Wow, my boss really respects me and the hard work I put in.” But once the person reads the note, your leadership rises to another level.

Why? Because you don’t write a “nice” note. You write the greatest thank-you message the employee has ever received. That includes letters from family and friends.

Here’s how: you stress details like they’re going out of style (which, ironically, they have been for years in written and oral communication).

Here’s an example for an employee who did a great job managing two roles when a team member was out sick.

(Imagine this is pen and paper)


Thank you for the extra effort the past two weeks when Sam was out sick. I know you didn’t expect to take on his workload, but I think you did a terrific job — especially when you led the meeting about the Stephens account even though you barely knew the ins and outs of the DMQ files. Nothing like trial by fire, right?

Again, I appreciate your hard work. Thanks for being an indispensable part of our team!

– Don

I want you to look closely at the amount of detail in this note. Don didn’t just say “Great job!” Oh no. He went much further.

Where’s the detail? I spot four examples:

  1. the extra effort the past two weeks when Sam was out sick.
  2. led the meeting about the Stephens account
  3. even though you barely knew the ins and outs of the DMQ files. 
  4. Nothing like trial by fire, right?

Here are four details that pertain only to Michelle’s situation. This thank-you note is 100% customized and tailored to her experience filling in for Sam.

With every new piece of information, Don’s status as a leader rises one notch higher.

Did he need to write the note at all? Nope. And when he did, he made the message so special and authentic that Michelle will probably hold on to it for a long, long time.

Details define leaders.

Who can you write today?

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash


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