Years ago, during all the pressure of a work crisis, one of my team members who had just joined the team worked tirelessly with a demanding colleague to solve a tricky problem. He was dedicated and patient, I was relieved he could find a solution by about 6pm.
By then I was in a meeting deep in discussion with colleagues, but one of the advantages of working in a glass building is you can see out. I spotted him leaving with his head down, bag over shoulder, hands in pockets. I excused myself and raced to catch him by the lift.
“Thank you” I said “I saw how hard you worked to solve that today and you’ve done good work!”
He smiled and straightened up. “It’s my job” he said shyly.
The look on his face made me realise just how important it was and in that moment I knew I’d be OK at this management thing (still learning!).
And those two words “Thank you” are the most important words from managers and leaders, and not just the generic “thanks for your hard work”. When you follow thank you with specific feedback that shows you have noticed their work the effect is powerful.