Integrity: The Thank You Note Investment

We do an exercise in our leadership trainings where the students write a thank you letter to someone who is very important in their life. They must have their mailing address because the letters are sealed, stamped and we mail them right after the session. Students normally take a significant amount of time writing their letters - sometimes a full hour.

At a recent training, a student noted that his letter was probably the longest letter of any type he had ever written. Ever.

A) As a leadership trainer that is a pretty cool thing to hear. That he (and a ton of other students) put in that much effort into something as simple as writing a thank you letter. It reinforced my belief that our work as leadership trainers, especially in the student market, is more meaningful than just helping leaders learn how to lead their team or organization. Most of the skills and concepts we handle at leadership conferences are highly valuable life skills that, when properly applied, will enable the students to be great at whatever they do.

B) A very cool leadership lesson popped up after the students turned in their letters. It was nine at night. The students were wore out from a full day of high-energy training on how to serve their organization effectively during their term. They had just turned in their thank you letters (again, some of them took almost an hour to complete.)

I held up the pile of letters and asked the group how would you feel if I just took the pile and threw it away? They responded with, I would cry, I would be very mad at you, I would feel like I just wasted a ton of time, etc.

I asked why? Of course they said because they spent so much time and what they said and who they said it to were both very important to them.

I then asked them to remember that feeling when they are half way through their year and they are thinking about not applying or acting on the concepts and tools we spent all day talked about. Not doing something with the learning from the day is just like me throwing away the letters (which I didn't do.) However, in order to do that, you have to care about what you are doing and saying as a leader like you care about what you put in your letter. Maybe it won't be the same level of caring (our personal relationships should always be more important to us than our professional associations), but it should be the same style of caring - passionate, important, meaningful, a guiding force in your life, etc.

It was a very cool moment. Thanks to the elected student leaders of the Oregon Career and Technical Student Leadership Organizations (FFA, FBLA, DECA, SkillsUSA, HOSA, FCCLA and AOFC) for creating it.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. When was the last time you put so much time and effort into thanking those around you who have supported you and helped you achieve your goals?

2. What are the advantages of writing thank you notes?

3. What sacrifice does a writing thank you note require?

4. Is the sacrifice worth the debt of gratitude that is paid with a thank you note?

5. If you could thank 5 people in your life for supporting you and helping you to achieve your goals, who would they be? And Why?

6. What obstacles are keeping you from writing those thank you notes?

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