Leadership Article


Leading from Gratitude

What does gratitude have to do with leadership anyway? Well like John Grey says "Every man knows that when his wife is grateful for the little things he does, he wants to do more." So it is with most people. When we are grateful to the people that we are leading for their efforts and energies they pour into their assignments, they want to do more because it feels good to be appreciated. Simply, people want to feel good and they will respond positively to appreciation.

There has been a lot of research on the topic of motivation and rewards. This is not about that topic. This is about taking a few minutes to periodically speak with every one of your reports, direct or not, in person to say "Thank you for your hard work and efforts." I had a Division Manager a long time ago that would come in at 6am to talk to as many of his lowest reports before their supervisors came in so he could build relationships with us and find out what was really going on. He never failed business and have a life? We so often beat ourselves up for even the smallest mistake and yet we don't give ourselves credit for the many things we do right. I invite you to take a few moments to reflect on the demands and responsibilities that you step up to every day and hold gratitude to yourself in body, mind and spirit for doing so.

I know that at first it feels like you might be taken away with flights of an artificially inflated ego. This is really not about ego and pride; it is about loving ourselves and supporting ourselves so that we may hold more gratitude for others and what they do for us and our companies. When we think about something we are proud of, it feels very different from gratefulness. Many of us have been brought up to think that to love ourselves and really hold ourselves in high esteem is being conceited. But it is not. Our egos cannot go that deep. Are you having challenges with productivity? Does your organization have low morale? Do you have unhappy employees that derail your best efforts?

You get more of whatever you focus on. Consequently, you get more to be grateful for. That would apply to both yourself and others. A method I like to use, that is successful in modifying behavior, is "Appreciative Inquiry". This approach is amazing in how well it works.

It is simple to execute - only notice and acknowledge those behaviors that you appreciate and ignore those you don't. Our programming is to focus on what we or another person is doing wrong and criticize them for it while ignoring what they're doing well. This really doesn't work well and is painful. Our tendency is to focus on problems and try to solve them. That is a good thing but applying that to people has lots of negative repercussions.

That's not to say people should not be held accountable. One effective strategy is to acknowledge the shortfall then let the person know that you trust them to complete the project to meet the requisite objective. Ask if they are missing some resource in order to finish it as directed. When targets are missed, it's often times because people don't have what they need, e.g. the know-how, the time or other resources to accomplish their goal. People will usually give their best effort. No one comes to work with the thought of "I'm really going to mess up today." Be sure that you have reasonable expectations and still show appreciation.

To learn more about Appreciative Inquiry I recommend "The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry" by Sue Annis Hammond.