This year my husband enjoyed his birthday on a Saturday.

When I heard the loud noise from his Blackberry signifying an incoming email, I likely sighed. His position in a government agency requires that he stay connected 24-7. After 12 years, I should be used to the weekend emails, texts, and calls out, but I still feel cranky when work overtakes family time.

Except that this time, my husband smiled. “Look at this, ” he said, handing me the phone.

The subject line: Happy B-Day. The message:

Good morning.

I just wanted to wish you a Happy B Day and hope you  get a chance to relax and enjoy the least a little…sure the family is taking good care of you.
I don’t say it enough but thanks for what you do each and every day in support of our  efforts in the “identifying information removed, specifics about the ways my husband contributes added here.”  Needless to say we are lucky to have you here in the division and your commitment, and partnerships are greatly appreciated. Please know your hard work and  dedication do not go unnoticed. It is an honor to serve with you.

Again, Happy B Day and enjoy the day!
Leaders first name here.

It likely only took this leader a few minutes to share the message, but the result in how his gesture made my husband feel was incredible.

My husband serves in a division that includes more than 400 workers, and the top leader works in a city two hours from here. Typically, he gets a phone call at his desk from this leader on his birthday, but this year, since his birthday landed on a Saturday, he got this note instead.

As leaders, we can’t motivate those we lead; they are already motivated.

However, our actions can create an environment in which our team’s psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are met. When we do, we increase the likelihood that employees will have a sense of positive energy and vitality about their work.

Susan Fowler’s new book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, explains and explores the true nature of motivation and how leaders can make a difference by helping people understand why they are motivated. As Fowler writes, “Being a leader is a privileged position. What you say, how you say it, and why you say it make a difference in the lives of the people you lead.”

Even gestures that seem small, like a few lines in a birthday email, can make a huge difference.

What are you waiting for, buy and learn from Susan Fowler‘s new book — today! Or share some of the graphics and tweets from her book, here.