Leading with gratitude

Many people, primarily in the U.S. and Canada, are celebrating the annual holiday of Thanksgiving this week, which in the U.S. began as a feast of thanksgiving in the early days of the American colonies almost four hundred years ago.

More and more experts in the field of positive psychology consistently identify gratitude as one of the most powerful tools for emotional health and wellbeing.  Research almost everywhere these days shows that people who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well being, are less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with their lives and relationships.

Studies also illustrates that gratitude sharpens mental acuity Gratitude makes people more resourceful problem solvers, more creative, and faster learners.  Gratitude also promotes physical health.  People who practice gratitude sleep better, exercise more regularly, cope with stress more effectively, and fall ill less frequently.

Yet we find in our leadership development work that one of the biggest challenges clients face is learning how to give positive feedback—in spite of its obvious and direct positive effects on people and thus the bottom line too.

So if you’re a leader who genuinely cares about the people who surround you, and want to help them leverage their power and resourcefulness as much and as effectively as possible, then you’ll say thank-you all year-round.

Here are some basic tips for leading with gratitude:

  1. Be authentic. Make it heartfelt and unscripted.  An impactful thank-you can’t be faked.  Take time-out regularly to reflect on each team member’s strengths, successes and positive contribution.
  2. Be specific. “Thanks for putting in all your extra effort on Client X’s presentation against such a tight deadline.” Not, “thanks for working hard.”
  3. Make it timely.  Don’t wait until long after the reason for thanks has passed, or the annual performance appraisal to offer your thanks.  Whenever there’s something you’re thankful for, express it right away.
  4. Make it intentional.  Mumbled, hurried praise in the hallway doesn’t count.  Take your time, be present, and create a calm moment to express your thanks.


Photo caption: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City