Sunday, January 23, 2011

The power of acknowledgement

Like most people in my industry, I have a day job that is not in the industry. I won't tell you anything about it, because that's not the point.

But what I will say is that today I noticed something that might seem really simple but is ridiculously important: everybody is always saying thank you. Today when I left I told one of the managers that I would see her in a couple days. She replied, "Thanks for all of your help today."

Two things occurred to me. First, that I can't remember a day when I've said goodbye to the managers there and NOT had them say thanks. Second, they always are genuine about it, this isn't just some rote thing they say because they're supposed to. They mean it.

It also made me think about the fact that my co-workers are always saying thanks to each other, and that in general we're all just very grateful to each other when we're helping each other out.

This is a really important thing, because it's something I've noticed in every industry I've worked in, for every project I've worked on, and everything that I do. The simple act of saying thank you or acknowledging someone is one of the best and easiest ways to get good work from them. When I'm directing, I try to make sure that I say thank you to each individual crew member, at least once during the shoot. Of course, I also spent the entire month of December writing thirty one posts to say thank you to the people and businesses who supported my last film shoot.

It goes further than just saying thank you, but acknowledgement in general is something extremely powerful. Hearing that I did something well improves everything that I do. It helps me to improve the things that I'm good at, and I think it's good to address your strengths as well as your weaknesses. One of the best experiences I've had in grad school was a long talk with a professor where he laid out the things that he felt I was good at, so that I could work on strengthening those areas and making myself even better at them.

We have a tendency to always focus on what people need to improve and how they can get better. We have performance reviews and tell them what they need to work on. We are always just telling people what they've done wrong, without focusing on what they've done right. But when you take the time to tell somebody they've done something well, it doesn't just change their day but it always is just good management, and it's being a good human being.

So I say you should take today or tomorrow and make sure that if somebody does something that you like, you should say so. Take the time to acknowledge someone's strengths or the help that they've given you. Say thanks.

I promise, I'm not like this all the time. It just was a pretty good day, and I've had a really rough month.