Last week the tech team started a new activity: Thankful Thursday. Every Thursday we make a conscious effort to thank each other. Being a remote team, I think it will help us grow, as persons and as a team. Here’s why:

  • You become more aware of just how helpful and human your team mates are. A team is a bunch of people working together towards a common goal. They work together, and that means they help each other constantly.
  • You reinforce good behavior. It feels good to be acknowledged. If you thank someone for helping you, that person will do it again. Thanking is about creating the behavior everyone wants: That they get help when they need it.
  • Expressing gratitude to someone helps kicks off a virtuous cycle of positive thoughts. In a way, thanking is the opposite of complaining: Instead of talking about frustrations with people who can do nothing about them, you get into the habit of expressing your happiness to someone responsible for it.
  • Thankful people are happier. Because they are aware of the immense amount of reasons to be grateful. I want to be surrounded by happy people.
  • The most important reason is this: You build trust. Thank you for helping me track down that database error. Without you it would have taken forever! You admit you’re not perfect in front of others. Thanking someone for their help means becoming vulnerable, and that’s the foundation on which trust is built.

I believe making Thankful Thursday a very explicit activity is super important in our case, because we’re building a /remote/ tech team. Many interactions happen via chat, and a “thanks“ in chat will never convey the acknowledgment, gratitude and vulnerability as a “thank you” eye to eye.

How does Thankful Thursday look like?

Once a day we on the tech team update each other on where we are with our tasks, what we plan to do and what is keeping us from doing it: A typical standup. On Thursday, we post our updates as usual, but we make a different round: Everyone gets the opportunity to thank two persons on the team for something they did.

Here some gut-feeling recommendations:

  • Be specific. Don’t just say “Thanks for your help yesterday”. Mention the thing they did for you, describe what the problem was, how it made you feel.
  • At least one of the persons you’re thanking should be present.
  • When it’s become a habit, start varying: Thank people on the team that are not there.
    Thank someone directly, outside of the standup. Express gratitude for something that happened to you, which is not caused by anyone, for example when it stops raining for the five minutes you need to walk to the bus station.

At the core, Thankful Thursday is about expressing gratitude to someone directly, eye to eye, for something very specific they did. If that becomes a habit for your team, chances are good that your days working together will be happy days. And what more does anyone really want?

For more about the ideas behind Thankful Thursday, and related activities, have a look at this slightly longer blog post.