Something to be Thankful for: Your People


As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with our families, now is an appropriate time to take account of the many things to be thankful for at work.  As a leader, what comes to mind for me is the debt and gratitude I have for the people I have the honor to work with everyday.  So how do I, as a leader thank the many people around me who not only contribute to my success, but more importantly to the success of the organization?  One way is to simply say “thank you.”  But another more powerful and sustainable way to say thank you is to treat people with respect and acknowledge and encourage their full commitment and contribution throughout the year.

There are times, however, when the pressures of work kick in and deadlines need to be met, and it is easy to slip back into the mode of barking orders.  It is times like this when I try to remember a simple rule; “Treat your people as if they were volunteers.”

I did not come up with this rule, rather it was given to me as a “gift” by Vice President at a major global company, who I was interviewing for a leadership development project.  When I asked this individual to characterize his approach to leadership, he summed it up this way;

“In my mind, I like to lead people as if they were volunteers.  The fact is, the great people who work for me, the high-performers,   can leave at any time.  Their skills and expertise are in demand.  If I don’t lead them and treat them as volunteers, all I get is what I ask of them.  But if I ask them what they think and how they approach a situation, I get their full input, energy and passion.”

So let’s be thankful for the people who work for us this Thanksgiving, and let’s acknowledge the gift of their presence by treating them like the volunteers they truly are.  Happy Thanksgiving!


  • This is a wonderful sentiment for Thanksgiving: “treat your employees as if they are volunteers.” Nonprofit leaders (e.g., United Way, American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs) often say “treat your volunteers as if they are employees.” In many nonprofit organizations, volunteers are essential to organizational effectiveness but are often overlooked when important decisions are being made which causes them to feel unappreciated and disrespected. Maybe the lesson is that whether for-profit or nonprofit, we must continually remind ourselves that all people should be treated with respect and recognized for the contributions they make to the success of their organizations.

  • I feel happy for the people that work under you and your peers for your attitude towards their positions and contribution to your success. This is the first time that I see a leader giving the credit of all his success to his team members and not the other way round. Kudos to you Sean and your team!
    I learnt one of the biggest lessons of leadership, say “Thank you” to each one who helps me grow, learn and develop as a leader. Happy Thanksgiving 2011 everyone!

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