Have you ever been delightfully surprised by someone?
I was several years ago, and I still remember it clearly.
A friend of mine was looking to sell his house. I referred him to a friend of mine, Lisa, who is a real estate broker.
Ultimately, he didn’t use Lisa to sell his house, but the next day I received an amazing plate of cookies from a local scratch bakery. It was a thank-you gift from Lisa.
Surprises like that create memories that last quite a while. That’s for two reasons, both of which have to do with how the brain processes information:
1. The gift was memorable because it was novel. We recall what’s out of the ordinary stream of life. It interrupts the “trance” many of us are in much of the time as we go through our routines.
2. The gift created strong positive emotions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get gifts every day (and they’d become the norm if I did) and that happy moment imprinted on my brain in a special way that made it easy to recall.
I’ve been surprised many times since, but I’m mentioning the the one above because it took place more than 10 years ago, and I still remember it.
In terms of your leadership, the next time someone within your span of control does something great that goes well beyond the call of duty, surprise them with a gift and a hand-written note. Even something as small as a $5 or $10 gift card to Starbucks or Panera makes an impression.
(Even JUST a hand-written note will be out of the ordinary in our digital age.)
It goes beyond the salary and bonuses — even incentives, which you notify people about in advance — and makes a huge positive impact that they will remember for a long time.
It also signals others that you know how to show your appreciation when someone goes the extra mile for you.
As a tip: Be as specific as possible when you give the gift. “You’re doing a great job,” is not good. “You really went the extra mile to get that direct mail campaign out — I appreciate that you worked extra hours on that because it’s going to help us meet an important goal,” is a great example of how to do it.
In my case, Lisa the real estate broker didn’t get a new client, but she let me know how much she appreciated the referral anyway. At a more basic level, it also rewarded me for doing the right thing, and I have since sent many more referrals her way, no cookies required.
To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.”