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Say thank you often

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Saying thank you goes a long way! I learned that more than 30 years ago from the Admiral.

This is a story about the power of saying thank you that I learned many years ago as an Admiral’s Aide, also known as a “Loop.” This is the second to last blog post in this series before I conclude and move on to my next series, “What I Learned from the Judge.”

These stories and lessons have been rattling around in my head for many years. It has been freeing for me to get them out and in this blog.

I am working on a book now to consolidate and refine all the lessons from the Admiral that I have discussed in this blog. I have signed with an incredible publisher, and the book will be published in early 2024!

Another family trip

I have already discussed family trips with the Admiral and his wife, Janie. On one trip near the end of my tenure, we were going to join his wife at an out-of-town location for an official event. She was going to travel there separately, and we were going to meet her there. The occasion was a formal military event, and it was winter.

I hustled to pick him up at zero dark thirty at his military quarters. I loaded the car’s trunk precisely as I had done flawlessly for months.

This time was a little different.

In addition to his standard hanging bag, briefcase, and official Navy sword, he handed me a separate heavy hangar enclosed in a clear heavy plastic.

“This is Janie’s fur coat. It’s more important than my sword. Don’t lose it,” he said. “She doesn’t want to hand carry it and will not pack it in her checked baggage, so I told her we would take it.”

I knew then that “we” meant “me.”

“You gotta' be kiddin' me,” I thought.

I remembered the initial guidance over a year ago when he told me some things that I would be required to do as a Loop would be well below my pay grade. I also knew how good he and Janie had been to me. And there were other things that I had done, seen, and heard that were well above my pay grade.

This was part of my job. Take care of -- and don’t lose -- the bride’s fur coat. And that’s exactly what I did!

We returned to Brunswick, Maine, a few days later. I was the guardian of the fur the whole trip. When we landed, it was Maine-winter dark and cold. There was some snow blowing around the tarmac when we deplaned.

I loaded the car after the duty officer pulled it up to the P-3 and carefully put our bags in the trunk and the fur in the back seat.

The heat in the car was blowing. It felt great. I drove five minutes to his navy residence, unloaded the trunk, luggage, and sword, and got the fur out of the back seat.

I handed the Admiral his sword and the fur as I walked with him up the sidewalk bounded by snow to his front door. As we got there, the front door light turned on. Janie was already there. She opened the door. And the Admiral handed her the fur.

“Won’t you come in for a few minutes, Mark?", Janie said.

“Oh no, ma’am, Mrs. Johnson, I appreciate it, but I know it has been a long week, and you and the Admiral are probably ready to get some rest.”

The truth of the matter was that I was exhausted. I wanted to get to my rented house, get out of my pungent flight suit, and take a hot shower!

“Ok, but thank you so much for taking care of my fur. It made my trip so much easier, and I knew I could trust you,” she said.

The Admiral turned to me and said, “Great job, shipmate. And I would have been in big trouble if we lost or screwed up her fur. And I mean that! We’ve worked half days today, so go home and take the rest of the day off. Thank you, Loop.”

I remember how I felt when he said thank you.

Over the past thirty years in the Navy Reserve, law firms, and big corporations, I have remembered that.

I cannot think of a day when the Admiral did not pass my desk on his way out of headquarters or when we had completed an 18-hour day on the road when he did not say “Thank you, Shipmate” or “Good job today, Loop.”

As rough as that day had been, his saying that always motivated me. It had me feeling good about the future and working for the Admiral.

Lessons learned

Employees appreciate a paycheck and excellent benefits, but little compares to the goodwill and morale generated when your boss says “thank you” or “good job today.”

In my corporate job as a leader of a team of lawyers, recently one of the lawyers who used to work for me said that she sure did miss reporting to me because I was the first boss that always had thanked her, who seemed genuinely concerned about her success, and was truly invested in her development. I was so flattered by that.

The key to being a good leader is hiring good people, delegating as much as possible to them, expecting their loyalty, and giving them all the credit for success. And say thank you often!

You can never praise someone too much. People will work incredibly hard for you and demonstrate loyalty when you do this and if they feel appreciated.

There were days when I failed to meet the expectations as an aide, and the Admiral said: “Don’t let this happen again.”

However, the daily praise significantly outweighed the corrective action commentary and made me feel good.

Thank you, Admiral!

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1 Comment

TD Smyers
TD Smyers
Nov 19, 2022

Appreciation and gratitude make valuable leadership currency.

Another great read, Mark!

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