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With 2 Short Words, McDonald’s Just Displayed a Powerful Example of Emotional Intelligence

It’s also about a new program McDonald’s just introduced, and why almost any business in any industry might consider copying it.

Let’s start with the program. McDonald’s calls it the “Thank You Crew” initiative, and it involves two things:

  • A very simple user interface that allows customers to submit thank-you stories online about McDonald’s employees doing their jobs well, or going the extra mile — whatever it is they’d like to say thank you for.
  • Some level of promotion to let customers and media know about the initiative and encourage submissions.

Pretty easy. In fact, it’s one of those, “it’s so simple and smart that I don’t know why every business doesn’t do something similar,” moments, for several reasons. 

First, gratitude is one of the most potent drivers of productivity and happiness at work — something we’ve seen in  study after  study after study. “Thank you” is among our most  powerful phrases.

Next, promoting an effort like this lets employees know that you’re confident that they do things for which they deserve thanks, even though you’re not always around to see or document them.

Third, enticing customers to express gratitude makes the positive feelings they hold toward your business grow deeper.

Next, the entire effort means you’re likely to receive a trove of positive, powerful anecdotes about your company, which you can then promote to even more potential employees and customers.

Finally, there’s the filter effect: You’re only asking for positive stories worthy of gratitude.

If negative complaints come in — either legitimate or trolling — you can review them, and maybe even act on them separately. But, of course you don’t have to pass them along.

The McDonald’s program already has a few “thank you” examples on their website already. Perhaps the most notable one involves gratitude to a McDonald’s employee who “jumped into action” from a drive-thru window to save a customer who was choking, by performing the Heimlich Maneuver.

Now, McDonald’s isn’t the only big company ever to think of something like this, of course. You might think immediately of the prompts you get to tip Uber drivers as soon as you get out of a ride. 

Or else, I’ve written before about the Kick Tails program at Southwest Airlines, in which both employees and frequent fliers can give Kick Tail vouchers to employees as a way to say thanks for a job well done. (The vouchers can eventually be traded in for gifts and prizes.)

Additionally, I wonder if maybe there isn’t a way to make these kinds of programs even more successful.

Maybe if a business let customers and employees know that there was a pot of money or prizes each month to be awarded to the employees who get the most thank-yous each week or month–or something else that doesn’t cost the customer anything, but encourages participation by letting him or her know there’s some real oomph to the effort.

This is more than just a good idea, however; I think it’s an example of leading with emotional intelligence. It’s about using multidimensional communication, and leveraging emotions to make it more likely that you’ll achieve your ultimate goals.

As I write in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People With Very High Emotional Intelligence, emotionally intelligent people try to end every interaction by expressing gratitude for something — anything — even if it’s just for having taken the time to have the conversation.  

Encouraging customers to express their gracious emotions, and encouraging employees to take pride in their work, might mean McDonald’s can move just a bit closer to its ultimate goals. More importantly, maybe your company could, too.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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