A Cornerstone of Leadership Excellence
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In the fast-paced world of leadership, where every decision carries weight and responsibility, the virtue of thankfulness often takes a backseat. However, in the pursuit of excellence, fostering a culture of gratitude can be a game-changer.
Gratitude is not just a platitude, something we casually say without meaning. it is a powerful force that can shape the dynamics of effective leadership. When leaders cultivate a thankful mindset, it ripples through their organizations, fostering a positive environment and enhancing productivity and results.
Expressing gratitude creates a sense of connection and belonging among team members, ultimately leading to increased motivation and productivity, along with a sense of belonging.
Leaders who actively practice thankfulness are more likely to build strong, resilient teams.
Who doesn’t want that?
Research has shown that expressing gratitude can improve overall well-being, reduce stress, and increase job satisfaction. In the high-stakes world of leadership, where stress is a constant companion, incorporating gratitude into daily routines becomes even more crucial.
I vividly remember a challenging project I led a few years ago. The team was diverse, with members from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. As the project progressed, tensions rose, and collaboration became strained. Rather than working as a team, the group devolved into quarreling factions.
I thought, for a moment, I was in the middle of a Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s feud.
To get everyone to stop seeing other team members as “the enemy”, I decided to implement a gratitude practice during our weekly meetings. Each team member took turns expressing appreciation for a colleague's contribution or highlighting a positive aspect of the project they were working on.
The transformation was remarkable. When the emphasis of the group went from a focus on the negative to intentionally looking for the positives that were happening, everyone’s demeanor and attitude changed for the better. Grumbling and complaining were replaced with compliments and praise.
As the team embraced a culture of thankfulness, communication improved, and trust was rebuilt. Team members began to view challenges as opportunities for growth, and they came together to move that project to completion and do so with a sense of purpose and a commitment to excellence.
An attitude of gratitude and thankfulness made all the difference.
Gratitude is a readiness to show appreciation. It’s the quality of being thankful Thankfulness, when authentically expressed within an organization, creates a ripple effect that extends beyond the immediate team. Leaders who acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of their team members inspire a culture of reciprocity and mutual support.
This ripple effect can positively influence the entire organizational culture, fostering an atmosphere where individuals feel valued and empowered.
As my friend and mentor, Mark Cole, often says, “Everyone deserves to be led well.” And leading well includes an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
More importantly, expressing gratitude as a leader sets a powerful example for others to follow. It creates a norm where appreciation is not just a one-time gesture but an integral part of the organizational DNA. In turn, this contributes to employee retention, as individuals are more likely to stay in an environment where their contributions are acknowledged and valued.
Remember, people do what people see.
I remember being contacted by an organization going through a tumultuous time. Morale was at an all-time low as multiple failures of leadership had compounded to jeopardize the very existence of the organization itself. The team had a choice. They could fight for the survival of the company or they could simply walk away and see their collective dream come to an end.
To boost morale, and to get them looking at “what could be” rather than focusing on “what is” at the moment, I took the team through a gratitude exercise during a rather tense team meeting.
Again, the transformation was amazing.
As each team member shared a moment of gratitude, even if it was a small win, a sense of calm came over the team. It was a cathartic experience, even in the midst of chaos. The team realized that, despite the very real struggles they were facing, there were still WINs to celebrate and hope that things could turn around.
This simple act of expressing gratitude became a source of strength and motivation for the team.
Looking back at this experience (and others like it), I marveled at how powerful the simple act of expressing gratitude fostered a sense of unity and solidarity. When team members are thankful, and express that to one another, this fuels a renewed sense of purpose and passion.
So, how do you incorporate an attitude of gratitude in your home or organization?
Practicing thankfulness doesn't require grand gestures; it can be seamlessly integrated into how you, as a leader, conduct your daily life. Leaders model the attitudes, behaviors, and choices they want to see those they are leading embrace as well. So, thankfulness starts at the top, with the leader.
Here are three practical ways leaders can incorporate thankfulness into their routines:
First, take the time to publicly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of individual team members. Let them personally know they are valued and appreciated, and let them hear you say it. Even better, let others hear you expressing gratitude and thankfulness for others.
Include a note of gratitude in emails and other written communications. Handwritten notes, such as a “Thank You” card carry an even more powerful weight as it shows you took time to express your appreciation to someone else.
Remember, people do what people see.
Personalized thank-you notes can go a long way in making team members feel valued. Take the time to acknowledge specific actions or behaviors that positively impact the team.
Secondly, encourage team members to maintain gratitude journals, reflecting on positive aspects of their work and recognizing colleagues' contributions. In some organizations I’ve worked with, this is both encouraged and fostered, as when team members come together for meetings they share an excerpt from their Gratitude Journal with the rest of the team.
In conclusion, some of the most successful organizations incorporate gratitude rituals like "Thankful Thursdays" or dedicated moments in team meetings where team members can express gratitude. It keeps thankfulness top of mind, reinforcing this positive attribute and encouraging the rest of the team to adopt this mindset themselves.
These three thankfulness practices are also highly effective in the home, so practice it yourself and encourage your team members to live with an attitude of gratitude all day, every day, and encourage their family members to do the same.
After all, who doesn’t want to live with others who are grateful, thankful, and appreciative of others?
Ok, let’s bring this home with a final thought.
We often think only of leadership in terms of strategy, decision-making, and results. However, one of the most powerful weapons a leader can wield is the power of thankfulness. It’s a secret weapon that can create a highly cohesive, results-focused team that values one another, supports one other, and serves your clients and customers at the highest level.
And when your customers know they are valued and appreciated, they keep coming back.
A culture of thankfulness can transform a team, improve their resiliency in times of struggle, and enhance the performance and outcomes of every single team member. Why? Because when people know they are valued and appreciated, they reciprocate in like manner.
So, don’t underestimate the power of a simple “Thank You” to your team members. These two little words can be the catalyst to build strong, motivated, high-performance teams.
Cultivating thankfulness is not just a leadership strategy; it is the cornerstone of leadership excellence.
It’s what Black Belt Leaders do.
And with that, let me close by saying I am thankful for you. I am grateful for the comments I receive from many of you, and the questions you pose I get to respond to in articles like this. Thank you for the invitations to speak to your organizations and to help train your teams.
I am appreciative of the opportunity to be able to use this platform to encourage, inspire, and challenge you to discover, develop, and deploy your own unique “Black Belt Leader Within” and live your life in the endless pursuit of Black Belt Excellence.
Thank you for subscribing, reading my articles, listening to my podcast, following me on social media, commenting on my posts, and sharing this message with the world.
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