A simple gesture

On December 15th, I hosted an all day meeting in Munich, Germany for 150 people at Siemens. None of the people attending report to me, they are all volunteers who have a passion and commitment for the topic we share. Each one of them has a very demanding “day job,” so attending this meeting required putting their own work aside for up to three days (because of travel) to participate.

The meeting had two objectives: to thank this group of people for work they have been doing for the company for a particular subject and to inspire them to do more. To achieve these objectives, we brought in three outstanding outside speakers who are world authorities on their topics: Frans Johansson, Mahzarin Banaji and Michael Gold.

Each of the speakers were spectacular; the first one raised the energy in the room beyond my expectations and the following speakers added to it—all in all, a very successful day.

The attendees came from more than 34 countries and my team took care of all of the logistics, arranging hotels, organizing transportation and frankly, any request that made the trip easier for our guests. This was no small effort and we got many compliments on how well organized the meeting was. I work with a team of little rock stars!

In addition to the program, I wanted to do something that showed each of the attendees that I appreciated their contributions to the company. I knew I would try to speak to each person on the day, but I wasn’t sure I would have time to speak to each one personally.

So, I wrote each person a note by hand, thanking him or her for attending the meeting and saying that I was looking forward to spending the day with them. This took several days; each card took a few minutes to write, multiply this by 150 and in total, I spent about three days writing all of the cards. I looked at it this way: the trade-off of my time was small compared to the time each of them invests in our mutual topic.

Many people were astonished that I did this.

“Denice, I have to tell you—I looked at the note to see if it was printed on a computer to look like it was handwritten,” said one colleague. I could only smile—imaging software that fakes authenticity.

“I promise you, if this was true I would have picked a software that improves my hand-writing,” I replied, laughingly.

This simple gesture had an impact beyond my expectations.

Why am I sharing this with you? It’s a reminder: something simple can have a big impact, especially if it says “thank you” and recognizes people as individuals. I knew folks would like the notes, and be surprised by them, but I underestimated the impact it would have. I thought about it after the meeting and I realized that when you work for a very large company, it’s easy to get a little lost. A simple but personalized gesture can help make even a very large company seem more like a family.

This makes me happy at work.

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