Lead with Gratitude

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. ~Rumi

If I told you there was an elixir (sourced from the Amazon by a Quero Shaman, of course) that would magically make you healthier, happier, strengthen your relationships and enhance your leadership skills, would you drink it? What if I told you that there is something immediately accessible to you that provides all these benefits, and more, for free? Something that is, and always has been, at your fingertips.

Gratitude.

Expressing gratitude, authentically.

The sublime nature of gratitude lies in its simplicity, accessibility, and profound impact.  It can be as simple as taking a few mindful breaths at the start of your day, followed by an intentional expression of thanks for whatever comes to mind. For a leader, gratitude can be taking a few moments to connect with a colleague, and acknowledging a specific contribution. It can be an incredible tool in cultivating connections and a positive work environment (even virtually.) 

There are hundreds of research studies addressing the physical, psychological and social benefits of gratitude. The data supports what we know intuitively. And, if you still are not convinced of the profound alchemy of gratitude, here’s some data I pulled from various research papers, articles, and thought pieces:

  • A Harvard University and Wharton study demonstrated that receiving a “thank you” from a supervisor boosted productivity by more than 50%. 
  • According to a survey conducted by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), 81% of people say they would work harder for a more grateful boss. 
  • Practicing gratitude enhances your managerial skills (Stone & Stone)
  • The least likely place people feel or express gratitude is in the workplace. 
  • Only 10% of people say thank you to colleagues and 60% of people rarely or never express gratitude at work. (JTF Survey)
  • According to the US Dept. of Labor, the number one reason people leave their job is that they don’t feel appreciated.

Gratitude is the ultimate touchpoint of human existence…and the ultimate performance-enhancing substance.  ~Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC-Davis.

The science of gratitude reveals profound benefits. Expressing and receiving gratitude literally changes the neural structures of the brain and promotes happiness.  Gratitude enhances empathy, builds resilience and strengthens the connections so critical to our relationships and organizations.  Think of the impact that gratitude could have, simply by weaving it into the behaviors and norms of your organization. It nourishes our souls and fortifies the connective tissue and ethos of an organization.   

Some Ideas for Starting a Gratitude Practice:

Inward:

1. 2-minute Gratitude Practice:  Intentionally take three mindful breaths, then bring to mind something about which you are grateful (e.g., a loved one, your dog, the sound of a bird, a Yankees’ playoff win, or even your love of a good latte.)  Take a few more mindful breaths as you notice the feeling that gratitude evokes in the body.

 2. Brief Daily Writing Exercise: Write in a journal for a few minutes expressing thoughts of gratitude. Or if it’s easier, make a list of 5 blessings in your life daily.  Don’t underestimate the power of reflection and consciously writing down the words that reflect your gratitude. Your reflections could be about things large and small, past and present.

Outward:

4. Express gratitude to your team in group meetings: Don’t just thank them when there is a noteworthy success or outcome; find opportunities to thank them for something they bring to the table, and be as specific as possible (e.g., work ethic, creativity, collaboration, positive attitude, resilience.)

5. Express gratitude to individual team members: Think about something you really appreciate about this person and share it with them in person, virtually, or through the lost art of writing a note.   

6. Thank the people in your personal support group: your family members, friends and colleagues.

7. Extend authentic gratitude to your clients, partners, stakeholders, and community.

Crises abound, the intensity and breadth of suffering reverberate around the world.  Regardless of our personal positioning amidst these crises, each one of us is equipped to mitigate personal and collective suffering through our practice of gratitude.  

I recently asked a soul brother of mine how he navigates his stage 4 cancer with such bravery, grace, and positivity. His answer was simple.  “It’s all about finding gratitude…this journey is teaching me that.”

Lead with gratitude. Cultivate gratitude. Transform from the inside out.

Cory Carlesimo, CQ Associates