Thanksgiving, giving thanks, appreciating, being grateful… a colleague asked me recently if I thought there was any connection between gratitude and performance. Yes, I answered, there is a clear connection. At the most basic level, when people feel truly appreciated for their contributions, results and actions, they give their best, they give it their all. Taking this a level deeper, demonstrations of gratitude are energizing for the recipient and fulfilling for the giver.
Warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful: describing an appreciative attitude for what one has received. Grateful indicates a warm or deep appreciation of personal kindness as shown to one; thankful for the comforts of one's situation; psychological research suggests that happiness is more related to being grateful for what we already have.
When people feel truly appreciated for their contributions, results and actions, they give their best, and higher levels of performance are unleashed. Imagine a culture where people feel comfortable and compelled to express gratitude not only for all the good things employees, colleagues, peers and bosses do but also for who they are. As people receive and give grateful feed-back, positive energy is created throughout the organization and, as everybody strives to do their very best, excellence and higher levels of performance are unleashed.
The role of leaders in creating such a culture is fundamental. It takes self-confidence, humility and awareness — of self and others — to articulate appreciation for others. It takes believing and understanding that people perform at higher levels when they feel appreciated. Yet, gratitude is appreciation at a deeper level. It is less about what people do and more about who they are and the roles they play in the organization. The impact of gratitude on the leader and on others around him/her can be extraordinary.
In some Eastern philosophies where pause and reflection are daily practices, practitioners are invited to acknowledge and express gratitude for things and people that, otherwise, would be taken for granted. As people express gratitude, not only do they benefit from the recognition of something or somebody that makes a positive difference in their lives but so do the recipients of the grateful feelings. As leaders express gratitude for their teams, for their clients, for the organization they lead, the appreciation spreads way above and beyond their inner circle.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy
Gratitude has to be authentic and heartfelt in order to be impactful. It can’t be an obligation or expressed because it is “the right thing to say”. A few days ago, I picked up my daughter at her job helping to organize and deliver birthday parties. As she sat in the car, she had a card in her hands and, as she was opening the card, she said: ”I love to read the Thank You notes — pause — but not the ones like this…”. As I felt her disappointment, I looked at the Thank You note she was staring at. It was a printed, impersonal, and unsigned Thank You, probably one of many distributed to all the people who worked at the party. My daughter was looking for the sincere, personal and authentic Thank You. But, what she received was one of many impersonal pieces of paper. Like the Thank You note my daughter received, canned gratitude is transparent and a waste of time. It cheapens the gesture and it doesn’t create any positive impact. In order to be able to express authentic gratitude, leaders have to truly feel it. In order to truly feel it, you have to be open to be grateful and take the time to pause and reflect about the things and people you are grateful for.
So, during this Thanksgiving, I want to invite you to pause. Pause and reflect. Reflect on all the people who should receive your gratitude not only for the things they do, but for who they are, how they behave, what they stand for as individuals and as leaders themselves. And don’t forget to be grateful for who YOU are. Again, not for what you do or what you have, but who you are, the values you possess and what you stand for. Expressions of gratitude create better lives and, yes, improve personal and business performance.
I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to write this blog and for all of you who are reading it. See : Ana Dutra.
Suggested steps. Consider making a gratitude visit to someone who has been especially kind or helpful to you but who you have never properly thanked. Reflect on the benefits you received from this person, write a letter expressing your gratitude, and make arrangements to personally deliver the letter and discuss what you wrote with a friend or parent. After making your gratitude visit, start keeping a daily gratitude journal of three things that go well each day. Reflect on three good things that happen each day as well as their possible causes, and write down these things in your gratitude journal at the end of each day. At the end of a month, review your journal, reflect on how you feel, and identify someone to whom you will make your next gratitude visit.