This week like many other Americans, we will head out on the road and join our family to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones. Personally, it is my favorite holiday. Not only do we get to eat the many delicious dishes like turkey or some Latin favorites like lechon and flan but it is a day to spotlight the need for expressing gratitude.
I believe gratitude is the best antidote to recurring negative thoughts and provide the best resilience to stress. Research has shown that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with happiness. It helps people feel deeper positive emotions, appreciate life experiences, improve health, increase resilience, and build strong trusting relationships.
In my years in the HR field, I have seldom seen gratitude being instilled as part of a leadership or HIPOs training. In this article, I intend to change this by providing ways to incorporate gratitude into your normal leadership skills toolbox along with other skills such as communication, negotiation, and feedback.
Look for opportunities to celebrate success
This could be a newsletter shout-out to an employee who contributed to their team or throwing an appreciation zoom party for employees to celebrate their tenure. Be sure to look out for small successes that will make employees feel special.
Take the example of one of my clients at global technology platform based in silicon valley. Prior to working with me, this senior manager was struggling with getting his team to be motivated and productive.
Moreover, he was having trouble aligning others behind his vision and losing team support. As a result, he was overwhelmed, exhausted, and continuously in the weeds. After a few sessions, we found that he was struggling to celebrate success because he had a limiting belief of, “we do what we do at work because we are paid for it” and thus he would not celebrate the wins and thus struggle to provide the recognition his team needed. Having gained consciousness over this flawed thought pattern, he was able to reframe his approach towards his team.
By simply saying thank you, as he has done outside work, he was able to change perceptions and get more support. Now, during his team meetings there is a “spotlight” time set aside to collectively give thanks to all involved. Fast forward, he and his team are thriving and retention has increased even in this type of job market.
Support peer-to-peer recognition
These days there are software and tools out there to encourage peer to peer recognition. In the absence of some of these software tools, a slack mention or a email would also do the trick.
Practice and Encourage Mindfulness
Mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with gratitude. Practicing mindfulness helps employees to become more aware of themselves and their environment.
Given that meditation is not for everyone, journaling can be another way of achieving mindfulness and exercising gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal makes you twenty-five percent happier. Writing things down makes it easier to remember to practice gratitude! And if you want to go one step further, perhaps gifting employees with a small journal to document their feelings of gratitude, would make a wonderful holiday present.
Start with You
Saying thanks improves team performance, retention, and accountability. So as a leader it is of the outmost importance that you are leading by example. Express gratitude in a clear, consistent, and genuine way in both public and private settings even if it’s for the small things that usually are not recognized.
This week as you are sitting at the table, passing the side dishes around, I like to invite you to take the spirit of gratitude beyond Thanksgiving and make everyday an opportunity to say thanks.
And if you get stuck, feel free to reach out here, I’m happy to brainstorm together ways to hone in on gratitude or other leadership skills that will take your career to the next level.