An Important Leadership Lesson on Gratitude

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Some years it’s super easy to think of things to be thankful for when Thanksgiving comes around. 2020 probably doesn’t feel like one of those years. Yes, there are some businesses and people that are prospering this year. That’s awesome! But there are also many people and businesses who are struggling. And to be honest, even if some things have been going your way this year, you may still be dealing with things like increased anxiety because of the events of the year.

2020 has been exhausting. Our plans have been continually altered since March. We saw Easter come and go while we locked down at home. Summer brought new struggles and continued restrictions. And then fall has ramped up the situation by throwing in the election and then rolling into more restrictions, which leads us to Thanksgiving and probably Christmas looking a little different than normal.

It can feel like a lot when you take a moment to pause and think through the events of the year. But if you stay there too long, it can start to consume your thoughts. And you may start to doubt that there’s that much to be thankful for this year. Rightly so, we’ve seen a lot of difficult things happen.

But gratitude is all about perspective

When you focus on the things that are going wrong, it’s hard to see the things that are going right. When you focus on the things that you don’t have, it’s hard to see the things that you do have. And when you don’t show gratitude as a leader, it has a negative impact on those around you.

Why gratitude is so important as a leader

Let’s start with the most basic information—gratitude is good for you as a person, not just a leader. There are all kinds of studies that show how practicing gratitude has a positive impact on your mental health. That’s an area where most of us could use a boost this year.

But there are other reasons why gratitude is so important:

  • It makes you happier
  • Grateful people exercise more
  • Require fewer visits to the doctor
  • Improved relationships
  • Employees are motivated to work harder

So while Thanksgiving may not look or feel the way it normally does, use this week as a time to shift your perspective from the difficulty, frustration, and uncertainty to all the blessings that you have in your life and business.

Spend some time creating a list of all the things that you have to be grateful for. This could include things that you had in your life before 2020 and the little blessings that you’ve experienced throughout this year. If you’ve been feeling stressed this may feel challenging at first. But I believe that once you really get started that it will get easier and easier.

Make sure to share with your family and friends why you’re grateful for them too. And then, don’t forget about your team and customers.

Showing gratitude to your team this year

Say “thank you”

The simplest way to show your team that you’re thankful for them and their work this year is to tell them. Tell them often. You can’t say it too much.

And here’s the trick—communicate your gratitude even when they aren’t doing everything perfectly. This has been a challenging year for everyone. You may have noticed that some of your employees’ work has been slipping. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their job or that they aren’t trying. When performance drops, it can be a sign that a person is struggling with their mental health. And this year, it’s happening to most people. Instead of only looking to correct the problem, communicate how you’re so thankful for each member of the team that is continuing to come to work (even if it’s remotely) during such a challenging time.

A few personal ways to say “thank you” are to write a thank you note (by hand, not an email) sharing specific reasons why you’re thankful to have them on your team. Or, make time to talk to them individually. Thank them for their time and invest time in them as a person and not just an employee.

Give a gift

I know you’ve probably heard that money isn’t the true thing that motivates people anymore, I’m going to challenge that a little. Yes, it’s not the only motivation, but it is a motivation. Especially in a year when so many families have taken financial hits. If your business did well this year, look for a way to provide a gift to your to let them know that you appreciate them and the work they do for you.

And remember, “gift” doesn’t need to mean money. Years ago my husband worked for a company that provided every single employee with a turkey at Thanksgiving and a ham at Christmas. It was a gesture that their employees really appreciated.

See if you can find something creative to gift your employees if you don’t have room in the budget for cash. Just remember that it doesn’t need to be something with your logo on it. This isn’t the time to worry about branding, it’s the time to focus on what your team would value. If you have a small team, personalize the gift towards each person to show that you know them and understand they’re all unique individuals.

Think about the difference that you can make

People need things to feel good about this year. Many people are really struggling. I’ve noticed two types of people when I go to the grocery store lately. The first group seems unhappy. They don’t make eye contact with you, they seem like they’re in a hurry, and overall you can just sense agitation coming from them.

The second group is desperate for connection. They start conversations like you’ve been best friends since childhood. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned about people in the store after a conversation that lasted only a few minutes. People are lonely and looking to feel good about things.

When you take the step of being more grateful and showing appreciation to others, it can go a long way in helping boost them up. This is true for yourself, your family, friends, employees, and clients. So I challenge you this Thanksgiving to look for all the ways that you can throughout this week to show appreciation to those in your life and business that you’re grateful for. Choose to shift your perspective to focus on the good things in your life instead of all the other things.

And let me start. Here are SPEARity, we’re thankful for every single one of you that’s reading this message. We’re grateful for chances to interact with you. We appreciate you!

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