The Power In a Handwritten Note
In 1989, I was an exchange student in South Africa. The dark ages of communication when you have to stand in one spot connected to a wall to speak to loved ones far way. I remember what I did to communicate back to family and friends. I wrote letters. Yes, pen to paper, buy a stamp, put it in the mail kind of communication. Feels tiring just describing the process doesn’t it. All in all, that year I wrote over 40 letters.
The poet John Done said “more than kisses, letters mingle souls.” What a profound and powerful insight into how important and impactful a note can be.
As a leader, I aim to write one handwritten note each day. It doesn’t always happen every day, but it does set a bar that is worth aspiring to reach. To look back on any given year and think that over 300 people have been encouraged by you as you do life, leadership and community together.
Why is a handwritten note so important?
It’s (usually) unexpected
So much of our communication is either corporate (mail outs & bills), information exchange (email), or headlines (social media), all of which have a place. The power in a hand written note is that it arrives in the mailbox or in a tray of the recipient personalised for them at a time and day the person is never expecting. An envelope dropped into the letterbox that has a personal feel to it seems to be an increasingly rare occurrence today. I’m continually given feedback on how much of a pleasant surprise it was to receive.
The opportunity to write a note to one specific person about a few important things can have a big impact on their sense of being noticed, appreciated and thanked. To use their name, in your handwriting is the most personal place of appreciation.
It’s expresses specific gratitude
A note allows you to point out a moment in time that this particular individual was a real star! A moment that got noticed even though they did it without expecting to be seen. The note can say how it made you feel and what it means for the vision and culture of the team. The note can express the depth of gratitude and appreciation for that moment. In leadership, we know that what gets rewarded gets done. A note reinforces the signature behaviours you are after.
It often arrives at ‘just the right time’
Over the years of writing notes, I have heard over and over again from the recipients that it couldn’t have landed at a better time. For some amazing and unexplainable reason the time that many of these notes land is the exact time that a person needs to be encouraged. Maybe it’s just that it arrives, and ANY time is a good time to encourage someone. Over and over I have been told “I really needed that today, thanks.” The odd thing is timing is the one part of the process you have no power over. It arrives when it arrives, and that seems to matter.
It leaves a lasting impression
One of the more private moments of joy that I experience in leadership is when you’re visiting with someone and see the note you wrote them proudly displayed on the fridge, or better still, up on the wall in their room. A consistent reminder that someone noticed and is thankful for the work they did. What a pleasure.
Can you think of 5-7 people you can write to in the next week? What would you most want to say to them?
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen.
PS: When I graduated in the 1990’s to the ‘Succesories’ cards, I found myself spending several dollars on each card. That became unsustainable. For the last 15 years or so I have had my own stationary printed in lots of 1,000. It means that on a semi regular basis my presentation changes and the cost is reduced to less than one dollar (plus postage) for a card and envelope. This might help.