Coach Lou Holtz and thank you notes

Taking the time to say thank you, can have a positive impact on your practice.

I have been a huge fan of Lou Holtz, coach of Notre Dame football from 1986-1996. He was the consummate motivator and was able to inspire not only his players but also other coaches on his team, his support staff from the secretaries in the athletic department to the ground keepers of the playing field to achieve their best. I had the opportunity to interview Coach Holtz about his methods of motivation within his organization. His secretary informed me that Coach Holtz would contact me at exactly 10:10 on a specified date between his recruiting commitments. I was nicely informed that the interview would was to be completed at 10:26! In order to conduct such an interview in such a short time, I wrote out the questions I wanted to ask Coach Holtz and sent them to him before the interview was to take place. At 10:09 I received a call from his secretary that I should standby, and that Coach Holtz would be with me in one minute! At exactly 10:10, the coach came to the phone and answered my questions as I made notes on his responses. At 10:26 he informed me that he had another call waiting and thanked me for the interview.I wrote the article which is attached to this blog.

One of the most impressive things I learned about Coach Holtz from the interview was that he had everyone in his organization, players, coaches, and support staff, say thank you at least once a day and, if possible, to send a written thank you note to a fellow player, a coach, a professor, or a friend once a day. Coach Holtz set the example and he would send written thank you notes to someone every day including those in his organization but also to his barber and the mail sorter in the athletic department. I thought that if Coach Holtz could do this with a staff of more than 100 players, coaches, and staff, then I could do it in my practice that had a few physicians and 10 support staff. I created a thanks a million check (see attachment) and I tried to send one thank you note every day. I also had thank you cards printed for each staff member and encouraged them to write a daily note as well.

The results: I believe that the staff enjoyed this process and the recipients also were appreciative of the notes that they received from my colleagues and my staff. An example: we had a policy that if a pharmaceutical company would bring us a lunch, everyone in my office who had lunch would send a thank you note to the pharmaceutical representative thanking them for the lunch. On several occasions we heard from the pharmaceutical representatives that we were the only office who acknowledged the meal with a thank you note. I know when we received this feedback that we were appreciated by the pharmaceutical representatives but this feedback also made our staff recognize the importance of being appreciative by the simple act of writing a note.

Bottom line: It has been my experience that we can create a healthy, enabling work environment by merely saying thank you on a regular basis. It costs nothing but makes a difference in the lives of the givers and the receivers of those thank you notes. Thank you, Coach Holtz.

Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish. He contributes a weekly video for Medical Economics on practical ideas to enhance productivity and efficiency in medical practices.  His 5–7-minute videos and short articles provide practical ideas that can be easily implemented and incorporated into any medical practice. Dr. Baum can be reached at