This week our American clients will be marking Thanksgiving. It may not be something that we celebrate in Scotland, but it did spark a conversation in the office about gratitude and saying ‘thank you’ in business.
The British sense of etiquette means that ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ are drummed into the average school child to the point where we apologise for bumping into doorways. That in turn means, to quote coach Jen Sincero: “When someone doesn’t say thank you […] it’s as glaring an omission to me as if they’ve shown up without their pants on.” As true as that may be in our daily business lives, there is a big difference between ‘thank you’ and being a leader with an attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude is not a quality often highlighted as a required attribute for a successful leader, but praise and recognition for team members when they do great job is critical. It is more than just the act of saying ‘thank you’ that will make a team member feel appreciated. You could involve them in the decision-making process of your projects to show them that their contributions are valuable, or provide them with opportunities for growth. A study by the American Psychological Association in 2012 showed that 70% of employees felt valued at work when they were given opportunities for personal development.
While it’s true that actions speak louder than words, as Gertrude Stein famously said: “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone,” so don’t assume that your team know you are grateful for their work because you are helping them grow. You still need to tell them and make sure you are specific, authentic and sincere. Having an attitude of gratitude in your day-to-day work will encourage positivity, appreciation and a willingness to work hard in your team. In her 2017 Forbes article, executive coach Christine Comaford talks about how being a grateful leader helps you see the positive in tough situations and experience less stress and fatigue. Ingratitude, on the other hand causes a negative outlook which can lead to mistakes, missed opportunities and misjudged situations.
As Geoffrey James says: “People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life. Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success. And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.”
Success and gratitude go hand-in-hand, but it does take a while to strengthen your attitude of gratitude, so get practicing! Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to give it a try and spend a couple of days of feeling thankful for what you have, and appreciating what others do. See how it impacts on your leadership and whether it becomes a focus for your development in the future.