A few years after retiring as CEO of Prologis, I received one of those emails you want to keep forever. You know the kind: They touch you in such a deep and personal way that you never want to forget them. And as we enter into our annual day of intentional thanksgiving, it provides me two simple gratitude challenges worth remembering throughout the year.
The email came from Randy, a maintenance technician in the company’s Los Angeles office.
When I was CEO, I traveled around the world to our various offices, and I almost always incorporated a brownbag lunch into each trip. I’d invite everyone who worked at the location to join me for about an hour. We would talk about the company, their job, my job, and other work-related matters. But we also talked about life outside of work – our families, our hobbies, our interests …
Randy was one of the people I got to know in Los Angeles. Here’s the email he sent me:
“It’s the time of year I think about all the people in my life, the people I care about and the people who I have crossed paths with that have contributed to where I am today … so, of course, you come to mind. I have had the great fortune to have had so many people in my life that have left an impression, helping to shape who I am and where I am in my life. I believe you to be one of those people. If not for your hard work and dedication to the company you headed and the people within that company, my family and I would be in an entirely different place, of that I’m sure.”
As you might imagine, I was humbled and honored by his words. Reflecting on them, I see two challenges every leader should embrace by answering these questions:
How are you investing in getting to know the people throughout your organization?
If you spend time with people and open up to them in a transparent manner, they will respond in positive ways. They will do great work and show loyalty to the organization. And they will feel comfortable reaching out to you with issues of concern, ideas for improving the organization, and gratitude.
How can you thank someone you work with for the positive difference they’ve made in your life?
Randy has a heart. He not only felt gratitude, he expressed it. I’m sure I’m not the only person who received a note from him. When I think of all the people who have shaped my life for the better, the list is quite long. My challenge for other leaders is to let the influencers in their lives know their influence didn’t go unnoticed.
One of the most significant traits of great leaders is the ability to recognize the contribution of others in their lives … to realize that it isn’t all about them and that many others have helped along their path to success. Guys like Randy are heroes to me. His sincere gratitude provides us all with a powerful example to follow this Thanksgiving holiday season.