I’ll be the first one to admit that my handwriting sucks. If you’ve ever had to read anything I hand wrote, I doubt you’d disagree. The cow scratch on a Chick-fil-A billboard is more legible (but my spelling is better – most of the time). I can’t imagine all the pain and wasted time I’ve inflicted on the people I’ve been fortunate to work over the years. If it wasn’t for Robin, who’s helped me in an untold number of ways and learned to decipher my handwriting like an Egyptologist interprets ancient hieroglyphics, many more would have been, similarly or more frequently, tortured.
It wasn’t always that way. In grade school, I received penmanship awards for my cursive and, in college, I remember being complimented on how neat my creative writing assignment drafts were (the compliments weren’t, however, so free flowing about the writing itself…..(sigh). I even remember that the hand-written business plan draft I wrote in 1992 wasn’t bad.
But those days are long gone. I think that the road to my crappy handwriting began when I created a signature for myself that even I couldn’t read. That became necessary when I started borrowing money from banks to fund a business. There were so many forms and places to sign that it would have taken me a half day to do it neatly (and, truth be told, they didn’t care if it could be read). From there, it disintegrated quickly, like a paint ball hitting its target. And that’s just my printing. I can’t write anything in cursive without a lot of active brain engagement, and wrist pain.
Even though my handwriting sucks, I still hand write notes. A lot of notes. I don’t do it because I want to put people though pain. In fact, I always start out with the intention to print as nicely as I can (which usually only lasts through the first sentence or two, if I’m lucky). I do it because I feel like it’s the most authentic way for me to express my Thanks, Gratitude, Appreciation and Congratulations.
Email might be more efficient (not to mention legible), and I know many leaders who take that route to express themselves. Some companies use software that reminds their folks to send a co-worker, or direct report, kudos or maybe a “good job” thumbs up emoji. For ease of use and simplicity, these are fine choices. After all, expressing gratitude consistently is what’s most important in my book.
For me, though, making the time to write, address and send the note to a person’s work or home is a better way for me to genuinely pay honor to that person, which is my goal. In a time where everyone gets hundreds of emails a day, and nothing in the snail mail but direct marketing offers and bills, I feel like it’s at least a little bit special (and maybe a tad bit meaningful as well) to get a real note of gratitude, that you have to physically open and that you might even share with your family (or keep) even if it’s not so easy to read.
I know that’s how I feel when I get a hand-written note (like the one I got recently from Grace at We Energies after they hooked up gas service at my house – kept it) which I’ll admit is less and less frequent.
I’ll keep writing my notes. If you get one, please know that it was sent with my best intentions, along with my sincere apologies as well.
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