Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~John Milton
Leaders need to be reminded that gratitude is the last of the three qualities of a positive climate – compassion, forgiveness and gratitude – highlighted in Kim Cameron’s research on positive leadership.
It’s surprising to me how much research has been done on gratitude with very similar findings and conclusions, yet we don’t strive vigorously to integrate gratitude practices into our daily lives or our organizations. Gratitude is relatively easy to implement and the effects are both powerful and significant.
Leaders overlook gratitude.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been taught, encouraged, and even programmed to focus on what we can measure. In many organizations, what is most easily quantifiable may dominate how we prioritize our day. Felix Frankfurter, former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said that “gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.” Because we struggle to put it in a nice and neat “outcomes box,” we are quick to overlook gratitude as we rush through our day.
Gratitude really is easy to put into practice. In study after study it’s been found that doing things like visiting someone to say thank you, writing letters of appreciation, sending a note or card, and the daily (or weekly) gratitude journal has a significant positive impact on individuals and their performance. This isn’t some secret motivational tactic known by only a few select organizations. It is common knowledge backed by scientific empirical evidence.
Leaders build their gratitude muscle.
Dean Savoca, of Savoca Performance Group says that, “Gratitude is a muscle to be built, just as we build a physical muscle. It takes practice and exercise.” He offers some ways to begin to build your gratitude muscle.
- Before you go to bed, ask “what three things am I grateful for today?” and write them down.
- Use the philosophy of CANI (Continued and Never-ending Improvement). Whenever you complete something, ask yourself two questions. What was great? What are opportunities for CANI? This can help to create an “attitude of gratitude” and appreciate what you’ve done well and identify where you can learn and improve in a way that supports your future success.
- Think of someone who has helped you recently, or has really out-performed in your organization. Write them a note, visit them, or give them a call and let them know how much you appreciate them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” And what organization couldn’t use a little more joy throughout their hallways, their conference rooms, and their social media.
Leaders are noble souls.
It’s simple, it’s doable, and it’s very effective. Aesop stated it quite well, “gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” Shouldn’t all leaders really be noble souls?