The Greatest Gift

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 | 3 Comments


As I was responding to an email from my kiddo’s teacher, this morning, I reflected on how incredibly fortunate we are to have such a talented, caring, and invested woman educating our son this year.  I tend to be a bit effusive in my praise, wanting to make sure she knows how grateful I am, but I found myself wondering if other parents do that too, or if I’m just odd that way.

Then I started thinking about the hundreds of men and women who’ve shown up in OnStage Leadership, suspecting that many of them could benefit from the gift of recognition.  Of course they do everything they can, to pretend they don’t need it (because they’re the leaders and the emerging leaders of the world – for some reason they think they’re not suppose to need it), but it’s there.  The hunger to be seen.  To be seen for all they are, all they bring, all they could be.  We’ve all got it – this hunger –  it’s part of being human.

I remember like it was yesterday…  About 14 years ago, when I was running my events company in Seattle.  I had just knocked out a killer company meeting for my client and the entire organization was talking about it.  People were inspired by what the company was about, energized by what they were doing, and proud to be a part of such a cool organization.  We had over-achieved on our goals and it felt great.

After the meeting, we went back to the office and I met with the VP of Communications – my work had fallen under her charge.  We sat down and she immediately started talking about what needed to be done in preparation for the next meeting, four months away.

I sat there and stared at her, astonished by how swiftly we were moving on, without pausing to celebrate our big win.  My brain just wasn’t ready to move on.  It may not have been wise, politically, but I said, “So how did you feel the meeting went today?”

“Good.  Now about…”

I honestly didn’t hear what she said next, amidst the white-noise in my mind, and it must have shown by the look on my face.

“Kimberly, what’s the matter?” she asked, impatiently.

“Ummm… Well it just feels like something’s missing.”

“Missing, what’s missing?”

“I feel like the meeting was really great.  It may be a strange thing to say,” I said sheepishly, “but I guess I just expected to hear that you were happy or….”

“Kimberly, if you’re looking to hear ‘thank you’,  your ‘thank you’ is your paycheck.  Maybe next time we’ll just say thank you instead of paying you.”

I felt like I had been slapped in the face.  I knew right then, that that arrangement wasn’t going to work for me.

The next day I let them know that I would complete everything I was currently doing, would help them transition to finding another company to work with, but I would no longer be available to take on additional projects.

Two hours later, the VP of Communications followed me out to the parking lot with a big bouquet of flowers and an apology note.

Here’s what I know to be true, nobody gives their best for a paycheck exchange.

As the holidays are upon us, I encourage all of us to really see all that others are doing to make our lives and our organizations a better place.  And as you notice the amazing things that are going on – the days people are coming in early or leaving late to finish big projects, the extra care and attention people bring to their work, don’t let it go unnoticed.  Tell them.  I see you.

I see what you’re doing and how it’s making a difference.  Thank you. 

Thank you, to your direct reports.  Thank you, to your boss.  Thank you, to your colleagues.  Thank you, to your clients.  Thank you to your vendors.  Thank you, to your family.  Thank you, to your kid’s teacher.  Thank you.

Because without the Thank you, the people who really care the most about giving their best, will find someplace else to invest themselves.  (Or maybe they’ll stick around and it won’t be to your benefit).

People need to know that they’re seen.  That they matter.  That is the greatest gift we can give each other.

And it’s the gift that will pay dividends for years to come.

©OnStage Leadership, 2013;  Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.  If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share.  It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.



  1. Daryl Orts
    December 19, 2013

    Great reminder, Kimberly, and a great story too.

    So, were the flowers and apology note enough to bring you back or was it too little too late?

  2. Kimberly Davis
    December 19, 2013

    I decided to continue working with them. I didn’t want to stop working with them, I just believed in my work enough to trust that I knew I could expect to work with people who recognize my value. I think we all learned something from the situation, as I experienced a real shift in consciousness around recognition – not just with me but with others as well. And I learned that I can be clear about what I want and need from the organizations I choose to invest my time and energy with and that there’s strength in asking for what you need. I think we’re all better able to bring our best selves to the playing field when we’re taking care of our own needs and not being resentful because others aren’t doing that for us.

  3. OnStage Leadership » Blog Archive Do They Know? » OnStage Leadership
    June 9, 2014

    […] can get back, they still need recognition to experience fulfillment.  And I totally get that – they need to know that what they did had the impact they’re hoping to have – that they hit the […]

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