A bit of context about my friend, Steve, who is at the core of this story. It all started with an email.

Sept 18, 2016

Cannot put your book down! I was a physician for 27 years and then moved into the business world of banking! (Long story) I started my strengths journey formally in June of this year and have recently become a certified coach with Gallup… I must say your book should be required reading for all prior to being certified! Wow what an amazing textbook for anyone thinking of strengths! Thank you for writing this wonderful story intertwined with your story and the power of strengths!

I have a second book coming for my Chairman and am considering more purchases for our entire management team! – Steve

I liked that he was on his second career (he was a pediatric cardiologist!) and I was on my third! I replied, and a robust back-and-forth discussion on the power of strengths and teams ensued.

March 4, 2017

Steve asked if I would formally coach him on how to work with his company’s teams. His letter was full of warmth and authenticity. I agreed, and our coaching partnership swiftly became a friendship.

Over the next 18 months, Steve and I met about a dozen times. I learned a lot about how Steve was impacting the universe. He spent time helping leaders connect their strengths to why they come to work and to a larger purpose beyond the responsibilities of the role. Steve was a bundle of caring energy, and he aimed that energy not just at the success of his company, but at his family, his church, and his friends. There are givers and takers in this world. Steve was a giver to the nth degree, always warm and hospitable. He told me that he ended every conversation with leaders and teams with, “Thank you for sharing your time and your talent.”

After Steve was flying on his own, we continued to connect over problems and ideas. I helped him with a couple of challenging team issues. He shared his insights on use of an entrepreneurial assessment in his corporate environment. I was always, always, glad to hear from him, and vice versa. Eventually, our conversations dropped in frequency. We were busy “doing” our jobs.

January 1, 2020

Steve emailed me with the note below.

Maureen, been a long time since we have chatted. Not sure I really ever gave you the proper admiration for all you did to ignite the spark in me towards coaching. Thank you, thank you, thank you for investing in me and showing me my best is good enough. Exponential growth in our strength. Hoping and praying your 2020 is the best year ever. Onward! Steve

I was very touched and replied with my gratitude for his presence in my life. I suggested, as I often do with friends, that we make time for “a proper catch up.” But you know how busy a new year can be! I was leaving for Philly in a few days…

We were in touch a few more times in 2020, once after he was on a webcast. Steve was fabulous, and I told him so. Then, when some changes were announced regarding the entrepreneurial assessment, we emailed once more. I sure wish I’d picked up the phone or fired up Zoom for that proper catch up.

You can tell where this is going, can’t you?

December 20, 2020

I was contacted by Steve’s Chief Operating Officer. She shared that a few weeks prior, Steve had experienced a medical emergency and was in the hospital. Steve’s wife, Anne, asked the COO to let me know. I offered to help in any way possible, which felt weak and inadequate.

During an afternoon walk on Dec 23rd, I prayed for Steve and his family. I felt tears come to my eyes, which was unusual. When I returned home, I learned that that Steve had gone home to God.

Words cannot express the regard I had for Steve. I’m sad to lose a peer and a friend. My heart aches for his kin and his colleagues. Family, God, Kindness, Love – they were the essence of Steve.

I called my kind friend, Kirstin, told her about it, and exclaimed, “I wish I’d told Steve how much he meant to me!” She replied with great wisdom, “You still can. Write the letter and send it to his family.” Kirstin always knows just the right thing to say.

Your Best New Year’s Eve

That brings us to today. In honor of my friend, Steve, and in remembrance of those amazing people in your life, I invite you to end 2020 on a high note by crafting your own letter of gratitude. You can use Steve’s note to me as an example (see how effective short can be?) or you can read this article about creating a powerful thank you note.

Nobody succeeds alone. Share your appreciation for that person who mentored you, was kind when you were down, helped your kid, gave you a chance to prove yourself, or simply inspired you to do something you might not have done otherwise. Write the note, sharing how they made you feel, how they made a difference, and how grateful you are that they are in your world.

Consider expanding this opportunity by including your kids or other family members.

When I work with high school athletes, I often buy a box of cards and distribute them to the team, asking them to do write a thank you note. The only rules are that they can’t write to a current coach or to me. Anybody else goes. Then, when we meet again, I ask them about that experience. What stuns them the most is the impact their note had on a former coach, grandparent, friend, or teacher. Bingo.

For nearly three decades, Doctor Steve Allen saved the lives of children with heart problems. As a strengths coach, he helped hundreds of people at his church and at work. On New Year’s Eve, I’m going to write a note to Steve – the note I wish I’d written before – thanking him for showing me how to live well and be a good person. And then I’m going to send it to his family.

We talk a lot about gratitude, especially this year. It’s great to feel it. It’s better to express it. In doing so, you will end 2020 with a cup of kindness, and launch 2021 on a high note of positivity and gratefulness. I hope you’ll join me.

Steve, my friend, thank you for your time and your talent. God bless you and your family.



  1. Love this!!!

      • Maureen Monte

      • 3 years ago

      Vicki, thank you! There is nobody better than you at making people feel valued for being valuable. You taught me a great deal in our work together to make IBM a welcoming environment. Maureen

    • bkorte

    • 3 years ago

    Maureen, How interesting to read your post on the same day the New York Times reprinted an article on Mourning the Letters That Will No Longer Be Written. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/books/art-of-writing-letters.html)
    Letter writing seems to be a lost art but a handwritten letter can have such a personal impact!
    Great New Year’s resolution!

      • Maureen Monte

      • 3 years ago

      That is a tremendous article, Barbara! Thanks so much for sharing! Maureen