Happy Holidays! Even in this season full of hustle and bustle, gratitude is one of the primary emotions we experience this time of year, so we’re dedicating this blog post to how gratitude applies to you as a leader.
First, let’s ground in a definition. When we say gratitude, what do we mean?
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, it’s a positive, complex social emotion we experience after receiving something we find valuable. It’s complex because it makes us think of someone else. We can’t experience gratitude without noticing why we are experiencing that positive emotion.
Let’s talk about the benefits of gratitude and how you can make it a habit.
Benefit #1: It’s good for you!
Did you know that practicing gratitude may help you sleep better? A recent study found that just two weeks of practicing gratitude positively impacted how we process and respond to stress, heart health, and sleep. Not only does gratitude help us sleep, it can also help us feel happier.
Thankfulness is linked to improving our mental and physical health – it boots our dopamine serotonin, decreases our stress hormones, helps foster strong relationships, and can sustain us when we’re dealing with something difficult.
So, giving thanks is good for us. How do we make it a habit? Here are a few ways:
Three Good Things: Notice and name three good things you are grateful for every day and why.
Set a Timer: It doesn’t matter if you pause in the morning, evening, or the middle of the day. We are likely to do things that we’ve scheduled and dedicated time to, and we make them EASY to accomplish.
It’s not just about you: A recent Fast Company article highlights research on this, citing:
We know that for a lot of us, these gratitude practices are most effective when we give thanks not just for something, but to someone or something. A practical way to do this is to send a text, email or write a note to someone you appreciate.
These changes don’t happen overnight. By engaging in these practices, you build new circuits in your brain – a gratitude circuit. The more often you do it, your brain “fires and wires” to build up the gratitude circuits.
A quick call out here. This doesn’t mean everything is perfect in your life. You can be grateful for a great cup of coffee and heartbroken over a loss at the same time.
Benefit #2: Your team feels valued
The individuals on your team feel valued and are more willing to help when you express gratitude for them. Harvard Business Review spotlights this startling truth: When someone isn’t thanked, the chance of them helping again is cut in half. In half.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Research shows that gratitude can make leaders more effective and improve workplace culture and productivity. Here are three practical ways you can do this right now:
1. If you are the leader, be the first to say thank you. Yes, this models the behavior you want from your teams. However, research shows that when people in positions of power express gratitude first, it creates safety for others on the team to do the same. Kim Scott of Radical Candor challenges leaders to praise publicly.
2. Tell someone they did good work and mean it. We all know when someone is being inauthentic. An easy way to make your appreciation genuine is to be specific. Your colleague didn’t just do a good job leading a meeting. They did a good job leading the meeting because they got a person who doesn’t always participate to be engaged! Way to go!
3. Find a variety of ways to share gratitude. This could happen “live” in meetings, but we can also do this electronically, like sending an “I appreciate” email or creating a “gratitude wall” in your office where people can post handwritten messages. Share your gratitude with one of our free electronic kudos cards here!
Happy Holidays! We’ll take this chance to pause and express gratitude - thanks to you for taking the time to read this post! We hope you learned something new to implement for yourself and those you lead.