Apple, Google CEOs demonstrate true leadership with this simple, free action

Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

It's so easy to forget — you're busy, up against deadlines and rushing from one meeting to the next.

But thanking your team for their work is really important. It's the mark of a true leader.

Thursday, both Apple and Google reported their quarterly financial performance. And in amid a whole lot of investor speak, there was also a key lesson in leadership: Take the time to recognize your team for their hard work.

Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked his iPhone team.

"I want to take a moment to recognize the tremendous amount of work that went into creating iPhone X. Our teams carried out an extremely complex launch from both an engineering and operations perspective, executing an outstanding product ramp that required years of research and development," Cook says. "[W]e are very proud of their achievements."

Similarly, Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the time to be publicly appreciative.

"I want to call out the great work of our marketing and design teams," says Pichai, according to a transcript of the call. "I want to thank all our employees, Google users, partners and advertisers around the world."

Of course, it is well within these CEOs best interests to brag about their teams as investors are listening, but there is a greater lesson to be had: It's good business to say "thank you" to employees. It doesn't cost anything and the return is potentially very large.

According to a 2013 survey from jobs website Glassdoor, more than half of respondents say they would stay longer at a company if they felt they were more appreciated by their boss. And 81 percent of survey respondents say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, which is more than twice the 38 percent of employees who say they are motivated to work harder when their boss is demanding and 37 percent of employees who report being motivated to work harder because they are worried about losing their job.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi takes the value of saying "thank you" one step further: She sends thank you notes to the parents of her senior executives. That amounts to more than 400 letters.

It all began when she became the CEO of PepsiCo in 2006. She traveled to India, where she grew up, to see her mother. A slew of guests came through the house congratulating Nooyi's mother on her daughter's promotion.

"When I got home and I sat in the living room, a stream of visitors and random people started to show up," Nooyi says on "The David Rubenstein Show." "They'd go to my mom and say, 'You did such a good job with your daughter. Compliments to you. She's CEO.' But not a word to me."

Nooyi started the practice of thanking the parents of her senior executives. "I said, 'Thank you for the gift of your child to our company,'" Nooyi tells Rubenstein.

Nooyi's notes went a long way to establishing herself as a trustworthy leader.

The responses were effusive, like "My God, this is the best thing that's happened to my parents. And it's the best thing that's happened to me," according to Nooyi.

See also:

Why Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi writes letters to her employees' parents

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'Don't work for money ... you will never be happy'

Google CEO: You don't need to code to be successful at many jobs of the future — but you will need this