When it comes to creating success, many fall into the trap of not seeing people. Qualities such as kindness, humor or physical appearance are often the first to be identified, yet the most magnetic trait is gratitude.
In business, we are drawn to people who acknowledge our contributions. When leaders value gratitude, employees show their appreciation more readily. People who hold leadership positions lead from gratitude resulting in a trickle down effect within the company.
Gratitude builds relationships. Employee recognition and appreciation creates a company culture that strengthens relationships. On the other hand, we know the opposite to be true when leaders don’t recognize their staff going above and beyond their responsibilities, engagement plummets.
Gratitude is a selfless act. Action taken unconditionally shows people they are appreciated, and it becomes infectious. It’s a sign of wisdom and maturity and an ingrained hallmark of humility.
Neuroscience highlights that parts of the brain are affected by appreciation and gratefulness. The hypothalamus which controls basic bodily functions such as eating, sleeping and dopamine are significantly affected from feelings of gratitude.
Gratitude stems from acknowledging that where we have arrived didn’t happen solely on our own. Gratitude celebrates the good in the world and finds meaning in experiences. When leaders see their teams through the lens of gratitude, they will always see the untapped potential and inspire people to achieve the impossible.
Let’s explore 9 practices that leaders can implement to amplify their gratefulness:
1. Cultivate a habit of gratitude
Becoming more grateful requires a shift in perspective. Capture a daily list of five things you are grateful for in a journal. A daily reminder sets our day with a happiness boost as you connect with a grateful heart. Developing this daily discipline teaches you to look for what is working in your life and creates a space for you to focus forward.
2. Personalize your appreciation when you are engaged with people
If you want to make a difference in a person’s life, identify specifically how you can add value when you extend gratitude. Some people prefer a one on one thank you whereas others enjoy the public recognition. Cater to your audience and understand what matters to them.
3. Take an authentic approach to expressing gratitude
There is nothing worse than a tokenistic show of appreciation. Have you ever seen the team leader providing lip service? When we authentically show gratitude, the people around you experience benefits of feeling more optimistic, increased levels of enthusiasm and become more alert to recognize opportunities. When we embrace gratitude as a given rather than an exception, culture shifts. People are more willing to spread positive feelings with others and ripples are created.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
4. Counting our blessings
Gratitude fuels potential and transforms perspective. When you are grateful for what you have, the immediate response is a deep sense of appreciation. Our standards are upgraded and our energy prioritized into contribution – how can l add more value? When we are truly thankful, there is little room for below the line thinking. This means not immersing yourself in blame, complaints or excuses because when you have a deep sense of appreciation for what you have, you don’t look further for greener pastures.
5. Invest in a gratitude night
Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness described an exercise in which he asked his students to select one important person from their past who made a positive difference in their lives and whom they have never properly thanked. Each student brought their guest to the class, expressed their gratitude publicly and created a memorable experience. This was a night they remembered for the rest of their lives.
6. Health and well-being benefits
Leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons highlighted through research that people who demonstrate consistent gratitude experience stronger immune systems, longer and better sleep and higher levels of optimism. Gratitude creates social benefits by allowing us to experience how we have been supported by others and by recognizing the positive traits within ourselves in order so we can appreciate others.
7. Love languages of your team
Success is always created by a team, never in isolation. When we recognize our colleagues and how they have contributed, gratitude is a powerful driver in driving culture. The Five Love Languages of Love, by Dr. Gary Chapman identified how everyone communicates love and expresses gratitude towards others.
The 5 ways are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Tangible Gifts. When we apply this to our teams, it is a great opportunity for team members to explore how the five love languages are communicated. Additionally, another way is to apply the love languages to how you lead your team.
“I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday.” – Gary Chapman
8. Everyone has a deep-seated need to feel valued and appreciated
Gratitude is easy and takes little money. It’s heartfelt thought and action such as showing appreciation as a leader by creating a gratitude board where staff can write notes of thanks to their colleagues or create an online message board. Whether it is a handwritten thank you note, a genuine heart felt phone call, or a public display of recognition, recognizing contribution creates a culture of valuing people.
9. Leading by example
Gratitude starts with you. You cannot be a leader without capable people to lead. When your gratitude is genuine and heartfelt, you will attract interactions that are open, gracious and thankful. An emotionally intelligent leader uses gratitude to inspire others.
Today, people have a desire for more meaning at work as part of an organizational shift toward a truly human workplace. Employees deserve to be treated as human beings thus leading companies are being rewarded with workplace cultures driven by purpose, appreciation and respect. Southwest Airlines is one of the role model companies priming itself on a gratitude inspired culture. Even more than that, their message is clear, people come first.
How do you express your gratitude for others? Let us know by commenting below!
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