Maree's Blog

Send a Hand-Written Note and Make An Empowering Impact

Hand-written note

Writing a hand-written note is actually so easy, but hardly anyone does it. In these days of digital communication, it’s considered old-fashioned. Most of the people who still do it are over 50. Have all of my readers under that age already decided this article is not for you and moved on to the next email?

But if you do want to make an impact, if you want to be remembered, if you want to engage your people and lift morale in your organisation, then becoming aware of the power of the hand-written note becomes an important skill to embrace.

It is because so few people write hand-written notes today that they have such impact. In fact, very few people send anything today in hard copy – letter, note or card.  Many people don’t even have a postal address on their business card anymore. Can you even remember when you last received a hand-written note?

Which Letter Do You Open First?

If you do, however, collect mail from your letterbox, what letter do you open first? Do you open the one with the window, or the obvious advertising mail, or the formally typed addressed one, or the one with the hand-writing on the envelope? Yes, you open the one with the hand-written address. Why? Because you just assume it will be a personal message to you. It will be from someone who cares about you enough to sit down and personally write to you rather than send an impersonal digital message by email or a text message. It will probably say something to you that will add some value and meaning to your day.

That’s why hand-written messages make a difference. They have impact value. You will be remembered. I am absolutely committed to hand-written cards and notes. They are and have always been a very significant part of my networking strategy, but they are more that a strategy or tactic. I love doing it. I prioritise it because I get great feedback from it.

You will Be Remembered for Writing the Hand-Written Note.

Just recently I was in a group at a function being introduced around the circle and one man said to me, before I could be introduced, “I know Maree.” I had no idea who he was so significant embarrassment set in! He told me he met me many years ago when his company, of which he is CEO, sponsored an International Women’s Day function. He went on to say: “You sent me a card afterwards thanking me and our company”. I then remembered him and I remembered the event. We worked out it was 2007. That’s 12 years ago and I hadn’t seen him since. I could tell many stories like that.

It takes time to find some note paper or a card, sit down and write and then go and post it. It’s an investment of your time, energy and money to send a hand-written note but I can assure you there is a positive return on that investment. This is what makes it so important to the person to whom you write – that you took time out of your busy day and placed this much importance on them.

Hand-written notes and cards have a permanence about them. Unlike emails they are not easily discarded. People tend to hold on to them. Cards, in particular, are often displayed, looked at and read long after they are received.

O.K. I hear you say. I should send more birthday cards to my sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews. Maybe I should write letters to my grandmother overseas more often seeing she likes receiving letters. Maybe I will (….or maybe tomorrow I’ll decide I won’t).

WAIT! STOP RIGHT THERE!

I’m talking about writing hand-written notes to your professional and business colleagues and your team members.

Yes, I hear you telling me that you don’t have time to do that. I hear it all the time. It’s not a question of time. It is about priorities and whether you consider this to have a high priority in your busy life.

Many highly successful people, however, have made the practice of writing hand-written notes an inherent part of their leadership style. They speak about it in leadership seminars and workshops and encourage others to do the same. They attribute much of their success to it. Most of them would be far busier than you or I and have far more responsibility than we have.

Dame Quentin Bryce, former Governor General of Australia, wrote no less than 50 letters a week to Australians from all walks of life. They were all hand-written because that was the way she had always done it. She, like so many others who write hand-written notes, did it because it created an emotional connection that can’t be achieved digitally.

Doug Conant, the highly acclaimed former CEO  who is renowned for turning the Campbell Soup Company around, and now one of the Top 15 Global Leadership Experts, sent 10 to 20 handwritten notes out a day. Over his 10-year tenure, he says he wrote 30,000 notes. “It got to the point”, he said, “where I felt something was missing if I didn’t have a chance to do it; I blocked out half an hour a day just to write the notes”. It was just one of his strategies for engaging his people to help him turn the company around. More of how he did that here.

GE Chairman, Jack Welch, was a prolific writer of hand-written notes, actually famous for it.

Peter Drucker, one of the most highly regarded management experts of all time, attributed much of his success to the fact that he sent out 12 thank you cards every day.

One of my colleagues, Gihan Perera, from Perth in Western Australia, has specially printed cards with a motivating quote on the front, together with his web address, and he uses those cards to send hand-written notes to people.

Naomi Milgrom, leading Australian female CEO of Sportsgirl, Sussan and Suzanne Grae as well as holding many other prestigious positions in Australian business life, and in 2018 the 8th richest woman in Australia,  writes hand-written notes.

The Wall Street Journal has written about The Lost Art of the Hand-written Note, as has the Harvard Business Review.

There is also the recent New York Times Story that cited some well-heeled academic research that revealed that most of do in fact under-estimate the impact of sending an actual note rather than an electronic text or email.

As well there is the feedback from HR managers and recruitment people about the impact on them when interviewees, whether they got the job or not, send them thank you notes. A very high percentage in one study (86%) noted they preferred a hand-written note.

Writing a hand-written note is  not An Obligation;

it’s an Opportunity.

It is a differentiator.
So Carpe Diem. Seize the Day!

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