The Art of the Thank You


The latest blog challenge from LinkedIn reminds us to #ThankYourMentor.  As a Human Resource professional, I want to also encourage my colleagues time to reach out and offer a hand and the gift of mentorship to another professional.  We will be stronger together.

In December, we said our final farewells to an incredible man in the one-and-only Fred Barnabei.  Fred brought me to the state of Georgia in 1988 and I will always hold fond memories of my twelve year tour in Augusta under his leadership and his tutelage.  I still remember his call to offer me the post and his opening, “if you ready to come to Augusta, do some important work and have some fun with a great group of  Student Affairs professionals, we want you to join our team”   There was something about this Italian who shared his generous gift of connection.  He had a presence like no other even with his short frame.  His funeral was a homecoming of many sorts and a real tribute to the man he was. The former campus colleagues were many of the callers who paid their respects and bid their goodbyes to this great man.  The stories were comforting and had us all laughing once again.  This final goodbye, or Ciao as only Fred could say, served as a reminder of how we need to say our goodbyes and thank yous throughout our lives and live each day with no regrets. 

I respected the family request to not visit Fred in the hospital.  But I wanted to tell him the difference he made in my career over those formative years in Augusta.  I found a perfect card and I got out my pen to send him a note.  My handwriting has always been a work of art, and I probably should have typed it out.  When the letter arrived he asked his wonderful wife Sharon to read it to him as he still had troubles with my hand.  Even in his final days, he shared his laughter and spirit.   Another very dear friend was in the room at that time of this reading and noted that she was honored to hear my thoughts.  Little did we know that the days were even shorter than we anticipated.  The letter was cathartic for me too. It helped me to remember the importance of thanking and reminding others of their places in our lives.  Fred did not leave this world without a parting thought from me.

If each and every day we could remember to reach back to one person who made a difference in our lives, we could rid ourselves of regret.   Here are some simple ideas I share…

--I was graced to lead a number of Professional Development Sessions with some aspiring leaders in the Business Management arena of Higher Education earlier this month.  I set the challenge for them to return to their campuses and thank the leadership team who sponsored their participation in the Institute.   We forget to say the simple thank yous in the chaos of our days.   These conversations can be career builders.

--Take the time to jot a note to folks who have made a difference in your career.  I promise it will be most appreciated.  The one-and-only Russ Cougherour still delivers many perfect one-liners, but Make Friends Before You Need Them is one I hold dearly.  I received a letter from Russ once, and I can promise I still have that letter along with years of stories that punctuated our time together.  I learned so many lessons from him over our time together and I still have been known to call him for some added advice and counsel.  A phone call is great, but an old fashioned letter is even better.

--With LinkedIn we have a great tool to keep up with our professional network.   We have the opportunity interact with so many with this resource.  Mention someone as you post an update or make an entry a tribute to them.  Most everyone I know likes an appropriate “shout-out”  and if it just brings a smile and the shake of a head, you have succeeded.

--None of us can be successful on their own.  Start thinking of your friends and colleagues and find your own voice and a way to tell them how they have made a difference.  Think too, about reaching back to former staff members and team mates who helped you to be successful.  A former teammate gave me a call and just hearing her voice made me smile.  Cindy Shinkle was masterful at keeping me in-line, on-budget and on-time.  As she retired she left me this treasured plaque which remains on display in my kitchen: 


more dreaming...less worry.

more ease…less chaos.

more fun…less work.

more time…more laughter…more love.


The people who have helped us succeed have many different faces.  Today we also can tweet and text these notes, but I still encourage you to go old-school and make it personal.  I dare you…make someone’s day today!



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