saying thank you

'The first task of leadership is to say thank you'.

I could take you to the very place where a mentor said that to me. I took it to heart. Saying thank-you, with sincerity and frequency and creativity, became one of the first principles of leadership for me. I found it overlapped neatly with a conflation of my Grandma's wisdom hammered into me as a child:  'If you have something nice to say, say it ... it is not the thought that counts'. As a leader, I would lie awake at night thinking of creative days to say it. I loved finding ways to say it to people who hardly ever heard it. There were days when the phrase left my mouth a dozen or two times and although my people interaction is much less nowadays, I hope there are days when this is still true.

Sadly, in the last few weeks - mainly via email conversations from people battling with this area and the stray observation - I have been reminded yet again that 'the first task of followership is not to say thank-you' - or so it appears. Obviously, I can't be specific. How many pastors might have  prevailed for a little longer if people had mouthed those two simple words more frequently? How many younger people, finding their way in the world, might have received a turbo boost by these two monosyllabics? While it is evident elsewhere (of course), this is one of the worst parts of New Zealand culture. It seems to be linked to these lies people promulgate about 'big heads' and 'tall poppies' where we become so vigilant about anyone who might be starting to think too highly of them-selves, or get to high above other-selves ... and so often it prevents people from simply saying thank-you. As I move so much in other cultures now, this flaw back home seems to be seen more clearly.

And yes, I see it easily because in the various leadership roles I have had over the years (as much informally as formally, it must be said), this would be one of the more bruising parts for me. Managing the relative flows of saying it a dozen or two times a day (happily, unconditionally, authentically), and then not hearing it said to me at all for a dozen days at a time, was not something I found easy. But one of the coping mechanisms, as it often is, was to come back to grace. When we know we receive undeserved favour in such abundance, it is much easier to pass it on to others, even if just as a trickle and even without return. As they say, grace is amazing.

So, go on followers - find a leader in your life and mouth a 'thank' and a 'you' to them. It is not that difficult and it will do you both the world of good. And leaders? Take a good long look at those for whom you are responsible and feed them a diet of authentic 'thank-you's - regardless!

nice chatting



Rachael Ayres said…
This is the same for stay-at-home mothers too. They rarely hear those little words. A number of women have mentioned to me that the best part of going back into paid employment is that their work is recognised.

And while this may be true, it is also true, as you pointed out, that grace provides the impetus for ongoing un-noticed service.
Ben Carswell said…
Thank you for this Paul & for your leadership! Thank you too Rachael for your helpful reminder...stay at home mums are great & do a vital work.

I touched on 'thankyous' in my sermon on Sunday. My observation is that when people say 'thankyou' it's a good sign in terms of spiritual vitality. It's certainly true of student groups that those who thank well are often healthy groups.

For me, Alistair Begg preached a sermon in Gilcomston South church on thankfulness in my student days - it was a formative moment for me in realising I needed to be thankful regularly.

So, thank you Paul for the good reminder!
Paul said…
Ne'er a truer word spoken, Rachael! One wonders the impact it might have on society at large if we went back to honouring (and thanking) mothers who choose to stay at home more fervently.

The post-feminist era has corrected the earlier excesses and has welcomed and released a woman to make that choice - but I have never felt that they have done so with a great deal of conviction or enthusiasm.

Great to hear from you ... and you, too, Ben!
Mark Maffey said…
Hi Paul

I agree wholeheartedly, we do have a culture of shooting our wounded in Church and Christian Workplaces. It is so important to encourage and exhort our leaders, but rather we tend to the opposite.

It is something I am conscious of and I do my best to encourage when and where I can.

I want to thank you again for your input both within NZ and through Langham in extolling the value of biblical preaching. May there place for the preacher as encourageer in there!

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