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Grateful Leaders Choose “Yes”, by Judith W. Umlas

Grateful Leaders Choose “Yes”

By Judith W. Umlas
February 15, 2023

If you have been following this series, you are now starting to become more conscious—or aware of the acknowledgments that populate your brain many times during the day—for your co-workers, for the barista in the coffee shop who knows your order by heart, for your son or daughter who is struggling at school, and for your boss whom you’ve always held in high regard.

Now we will examine the second C, for choice. I would love to be your very own Jiminy Cricket and serve as your personal conscience. I would yell loudly into your ear after you recorded one of the acknowledgments of which you had just become conscious, as advised in the previous blog post. I would say, “Tell your boss right now what a great job she has been doing. No one else ever tells her, and it will mean the world to her!”

But unfortunately, I can’t be your conscience. I can simply alert you to the many joys and successes that lie ahead if you do deliver that beautiful, inspiring thought to your supervisor. Choose “yes,” even though you have the choice of saying “no, not now.” Choose to make her day!

I had one student who told our class rather apologetically: “I’m sure our instructor is aware of this (she aka Judith W. Umlas wasn’t!), but maybe others haven’t noticed the word “now” within the word “acknowledgment.” The time for an acknowledgment is the moment you become conscious of it. There are few real excuses for not delivering it now.

I share the following story as a dramatic example of the power of choice. In the webinars I present for people across the globe, I lead an acknowledgment exercise. Below is an account of what one participant named Robert texted to us all during this activity:

“I can’t send the (acknowledgment) message because the person I have in mind is now deceased. He was a former boss who in one sentence set my entire career. He called me into his office to ask me to deal with a particular situation. He started to tell me what to do and then stopped and said, ‘You know what to do, don’t you?’ I said ‘yes.’ He said, ‘Then I don’t need to do anything here. Just let me know if anyone gets in your way.’ I learned that I could take charge, and from there, I kept taking on more responsibilities and moved up the chain to management. I never got to thank him. He died from cancer a year after that conversation.”

As I read this acknowledgment aloud to the webcast audience, my voice broke. I heard Robert’s sadness and frustration, and I knew we all felt his painful realization that now he would never have the chance to deliver his acknowledgement. How many of us have withheld this kind of simple, yet extraordinarily powerful statement—the essence of which might be: “You have no idea what a huge and positive impact you made on my life in that one moment. I will never forget you.”

I’m sure that every one of us in that virtual room thought of those we had not fully, profoundly, and generously acknowledged. I do believe that Robert’s statement moved each of us to commit or recommit to making sure we let those who made a difference in our lives know about it—as soon as possible. And since I teach that “there is no expiration date on an acknowledgment,” even in the extreme case just mentioned, I tell people to contact the relatives of the deceased and send them the acknowledgment. Someone did that for me after my mother passed away – I had met a former third grade student of hers at a gathering. Once we realized our connection, we talked about her teaching style and his conviction that she was the best teacher he had ever had. A few days later a copy of his third-grade report card, written in my mother’s hand, came my way and I can’t begin to tell you the difference that made to me.

So, wouldn’t it be better if you could choose “yes” most (if not all) of the time when you become aware of the acknowledgments floating through your brain? If you are still uncertain, send me an email at judy.umlas@iil.com with the subject line, “URGENT: Choose Yes, or No?” I will do my best to respond to you immediately. In the email, be sure to list your considerations for both choices.

Next week we come face to face with the third C, for courage. And that’s what it really takes to deliver acknowledgments in a heartfelt, profound, and generous manner. Stay tuned!

Judith W. Umlas

Judith W. Umlas is Sr. Vice President, author and trainer at International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL), a global corporate training company.  She is the publisher of IIL Publishing, New York. She is also the author of the ground-breaking book, The Power of Acknowledgment ©2006, IIL Publishing, New York, which has been credited with changing workplaces and lives by making use of the 7 Principles of Acknowledgment she developed. Her book on Grateful Leadership, Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results was published by McGraw-Hill Professional in association with IIL in early 2013 and You’re Totally Awesome! The Power of Acknowledgment for Kids was published in late 2013 by IIL Publishing.

Judith delivers inspiring, motivational, and transformational keynote addresses on Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment all over the world. She also leads webinars and teaches full day virtual and traditional courses to organizations such as Volvo, the U.S. Army, Prudential, JMP Engineering, the World Bank, Fannie Mae, IBM, AT&T, Google, Amway, CCL Industries, the New York Police Department, and many others. She has trained over 100,000 people through her leading edge, highly interactive and engaging courses, and keynotes – with outstanding and long-lasting results. She heads up the Center for Grateful Leadership, a division of IIL, whose members from around the world are committed to practicing and implementing the Grateful Leadership initiative in their organizations.

Judith W. Umlas

Browse IIL’s Leadership & Interpersonal Skills courses here!

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.
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