Thankful for those who make our nation better every day
Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Messenger meets with veterans Nov. 11, 2022, at the Sparta Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Sparta, Wis. Messenger was one of several Fort McCoy personnel to go out and support Veterans Day activities in local communities in 2022. (U.S. Army Photo by Kaleen Holliday, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis.) (Photo Credit: Kaleen Holliday) VIEW ORIGINAL

Commander, Fort McCoy Garrison

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to express my overwhelming gratitude for the people of Fort McCoy, their families, the surrounding community, and the privilege of leading in the United States Army.

I like to start and end every single meeting with “Thank you.” Someday I hope someone would submit a suggestion box comment with:

“The boss thanks us too much! Stop it. We get it, he’s thankful!”

This hasn’t happened yet. I model this off a senior leader I knew who lived a life of gratitude through cards, notes, handshakes, and continuous verbal affirmation.

I was inspired by how this very important commander understood that true leadership was about challenging others to achieve their maximum standard and then thanking them profusely for it.

In a commonly told story, there was a woman who worked as a janitor in a company for decades.

One particular year, there was a change of management, and the new owner decided to write a thank you note to every employee in the company.

The woman read her card and began crying. She asked to go home, and her supervisor, thinking she was ill, let her take the rest of the day off.

The backstory was that this woman never once received a thank you of any kind from anyone in the company.

Over multiple decades, not one person expressed any type of gratitude whatsoever for her very important services. When she heard there would be a new boss, she decided to quit.

The very same day she received the thank you note. She was overwhelmed. The gratitude this new owner showed through one single note made her change her mind and remain with the company.

As a leader, I think about how many people do so much for Fort McCoy, and I miss thanking them. There are so many people that work hard, and I know I often fail in recognizing their achievements—this is even after significant effort to recognize people. Still, I don’t get everyone and can do better.

Great leaders thank others. Not just those who work for them, but those who work around them. Here are some questions to ponder when you think about leadership thankfulness:

Do you start and end every meeting with a thank you?

How often do you go out of your way to recognize someone’s performance?

When was the last time you wrote a thank you note and personally handed it to someone?

Have you called someone recently, not texted, just to show appreciation of their hard work?

Who was the last person you told, “I’m proud of you”?

Thankfulness is not one-time event; it’s continuous. If you aspire to be a leader known for gratitude, you have to actively practice it.

With Thanksgiving here, it’s a great time to start expressing your appreciation for your people’s hard work. After all, if you’re doing it right and not micromanaging, they are the ones doing everything. Today is the day to recognize them.

Start small. With 84,600 seconds in the day, take a few of them to thank those who work hard on your behalf.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the people who so hard to make our Nation better every day!

Lead well and THANK YOU!