Do you know what “Thank you” and “Please” have in common, when talking about managers or bosses? The fact that we think we say them more often than we actually do. Well, if you are a people manager, ask your guys: how often do you actually thank them for something, or ask them with a “please”? You might be surprised, even if you the kindest manager of the office.
A professor I had back in my University years that used to say something like this: “If you believe that Content is everything, you are wrong. Content is not without Form, and the Form affects the Content as any other variable in communication. Pick the best available Form, and your content won’t be as relevant. Pick the wrong Form, and no matter how important your Content is, it will be lost.”
He was a Semiotics professor, which made it all more interesting. That memory still lingers in my head and it comes back every now and then, specially when I think on the way I tell things to my team. Am I being clear enough? Am I being direct? Those are the normal question any and most managers ask themselves after delivering something to their team…but they rarely ask themselves: “was my form right? Did I say please, or thank them for paying attention?”.
For some, it may sound preposterous. You’re a manager. Why on Earth would you stop and ask yourself if you were polite enough, or if you thanked them for paying attention? I mean, you might be saying the worlds already, why should you pay any attention to how often to do you say them?
Because Form matters, in any and all messages you give. It is what is first and last perceived, the head and tail of any message. It is as a gift: what makes you want desperately what’s inside is the shape, size and wrapping paper used to conceil it.
It is of course, directly related to how much you serve your team, as opposed to how much you rule your team. People work better with other people when they receive niceties. That is a fact. Transport this concept to the business and management world and it fits perfectly well: people work better with their managers offer niceties. These words should always be present, engraved in your messages for a simple reason: they alone, make the difference.
Start your requests with a “Please”. Don’t just throw it at the end of a question. Order does matter: sometimes when you put the “please” at the end, it sounds as if you almost forgot to put it there. Put it first, start with “Please”. It makes a difference, it connotes not a nicely put order, but a genuine request. It makes whatever you are asking for, easy to hear and comply to. In short words, your message will resonate in their minds closer to “Hey, my manager needs me”.
Thanking them for being there, thanking them for paying attention, for trying harder, for doing the stuff they do the right way and even for trying should be as common to you as having your first cup of coffee. They whys are numerous, too many to name them but there is one that outshines the rest for me: it is the perfect way to end any message, or request. You just asked someone for something and they did it. Thank them. The message in their minds will end closer to “My manager cares” than to “he/she just wants me to do something”.
After all…isn’t “Thank you” and “Please” the first and the most constant lessons we’re taught as children?
Also published on Medium.