Expressing gratitude makes us better leaders and happier humans.
This revered timeless celebration of saying thank you made me think about the importance of gratitude and appreciation in our lives. How often do we take a pause from our busy lives to acknowledge and thank someone? How can this make us better colleagues and better team leaders? And how do we embed gratitude in the Ndiema culture?
As I was writing this, I was reminded of a Coke commercial that a colleague had recently sent to me. ‘The happiest thank you’ is about what happens when you make the effort to get to know staff members by name.
Think about it. How many of the workers who work so hard for us do you know by name? The cleaning crew? The security guards? The canteen workers? And how often do you take a pause to say a simple thank you to them and address them by their name?
At a more general level, all of us are well aware that money is not the only motivator for people. All of us have a desire to feel appreciated and valued by others. A lot of research in individual development shows that people are more likely to improve and perform better if they are given positive feedback that they can further build on. When people feel more valued, they are more satisfied, work harder, are more collaborative with their team members and more motivated to give their best at work.
If you look beyond the work front, being grateful and knowing how to say thank you can have a profound impact on you at a personal level as well. In fact, an article in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago cited research that said: “Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.” For those of us looking for the secret to happiness, this must be it!
So, how can we make gratitude a part of our daily lives? An HBR article I came across points out that like with most things, appreciation starts with you. If you can’t or don’t find the time to appreciate yourself, then you won’t be able to for someone else. Give it a try. At night before going to bed, ask yourself “What can I feel proud of today?”. And follow that with “What could I do better tomorrow?”.
Try to make a habit of noticing what others get right. Many of us in the corporate world are more attuned to zeroing in on what goes wrong; we are always looking to course correct and improve. But appreciation of what goes well is equally, if not more important than pointing out what is wrong. The more you practice it, the better you will get.
Robert Eckert, who was the CEO of Mattel from 2000-2011, offers five great tips, which I have personally found very effective:
1. Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work
Start by thinking about each of your team members and listing what it is that they do well, that you take for granted. Then, go acknowledge it. Put time on your calendar to do this each week, so that you don’t miss out on it.
2. Make it personal
A personal touch matters, even more so now in the digital age. This could be a great touch point to truly engage someone and show them that they really matter. Handwrite thank-you notes whenever you can; choose a token that links to something they are interested in.
3. Punish in private; praise in public
When something is worthy of being praised and shared in public, make it a point to do so. Ensure that it is timely and specific, to have the desired impact. It is a great boost for the person and also encourages similar behaviour among others.
4. “Don’t just tell me. Tell my boss too.”
This one is simple and very effective – always remember to copy people’s supervisors on thank you emails. It helps amplify the recognition.
5. A culture of gratitude can be a game changer for sustainably better performance
Thank you’s are contagious and they create a ripple effect. If you express gratitude, your team members will start doing the same. And this will, in turn, create a culture of appreciation and gratitude across our company.
Start this week. Maybe by getting to know the names of a few of the staff members and then stopping by for a few minutes to say a few nice words to them. For those of you with large teams, try spending some time with your most junior team members. And also, make it a point to say thank you to at least one person on your team for something that they have done. Be authentic and make it heartfelt. It really makes all the difference.
I am sure that many of you would have stories about your personal experiences and I look forward to you sharing them with the rest of our team.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your tremendous commitment and many contributions to our great company; for constantly striving to raise the bar and being great examples for others. I am so proud to have such an amazing team to work with! My deep appreciation to your families as well, for their support that enables you to give your best at work.
Let’s work together to truly build a culture of appreciation at our company.