Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

These 2 simple words could transform your career in 2017

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I can't even recall any I've ever made, except for the time I "resolved" to learn Spanish, which much to my everlasting regret, did not happen. Like, nada at all.

But I am big on continual self-improvement, especially on the job. Sure, luck and outside forces (like the economy) can and do play a role in any given person's professional arc, but there's perhaps nothing in your life you can control, over time, as much as your own career.

Which is why I'd like to suggest you launch into 2017 with a seemingly simple performance tweak that, in my experience, has an immediate and outsized career impact: Say "thank you" more often, to more people and, most important, more authentically.


Look, I know how easy it is to get caught up in your work, and even to feel crushed by it. Virtually no one in today's hyper-accelerated, hyper-competitive environment has enough time or resources to do everything they want to do, exactly the way they want to do it. And virtually everyone can feel a little (or a lot) heroic getting through the day without dropping the ball.

In such a context, a lot of things — a lot of human things — can get pushed aside in the day-to-day, like asking after a colleague's ailing mother.

Just as easily, we can forget to express gratitude for the big and small ways our colleagues, up, down, and sideways, have contributed to making our work more productive, more effective, or even more interesting and enjoyable. We forget, essentially, to say, "Thank you." Not by rote, either, but with meaning and feeling.


Author and business journalist Suzy Welch.
Author and business journalist Suzy Welch.

It matters. Because here's the truth about careers, at least as I've seen it: Your technical performance can be great, but if you don't connect with people — basically, if you're sort of a jerk — it's going to catch up with you. Maybe not right away. Maybe, if you're talented enough, not for a couple of years. And maybe, if you're a Steve Jobs-like genius, not for decades.

But in most cases, especially in organizations, a deficit of simple human goodness is a killer, and I would put money on the fact that it takes down more careers than any other factor.

Now, hello, please know this. Humanity cannot be faked. Caring cannot be faked. Gratitude cannot be faked. Most people are too smart for that, and everyone eventually smells out a phony.

Being good for real springs from inside, from self-awareness — the deep understanding that nothing good happens alone; that no one, yourself included, is perfect; that humility and compassion are essential to living with integrity; and that yes, it's true, everything that goes around does indeed come around.

Sometimes the exigencies of work can bury that self-awareness; you're busy-busy-busy.

Too busy to pick up the phone and spend five minutes saying, "This is how you changed our team's work for the better." To send an email with the words, "I'd be remiss not to let you know how much I appreciated you staying late to help us make the deadline." To actually hand-write (remember that?) a note with the words, "I wanted you to know how much you contributed to my thinking and making me smarter."

I get that. It's just so much faster to throw off a "Hey, thanks" in passing, and hope it sticks.

But maybe 2017 is the year to upend that routine. I promise you, a real thank you will be so easy and feel so good, it won't feel like a New Year's resolution at all.

But it just might change your career like one.

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Suzy Welch is a CNBC contributor and the author of several best-selling business books, including "10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea," "The Real Life MBA" and "Winning."