Leading with gratitude

Most of us spend more time at work than anything else. Add to this the challenges the world has gone through in the last couple of years and the resultant changes in the ways of working, the line between personal and work time is more blurred, the stress in life has increased, and employee well-being matters more than ever.

It is, therefore, important that the environment we work in is healthy and supportive. Cultivating a culture where expressing gratitude is a way of life is one of the simple ways organizations can create such an environment. Gratitude is an appreciation for what an individual receives. Research shows that gratitude helps a person:

·      Feel valued

·      Be kind and generous

·      Release toxic emotions

·      Be more stress-resilient, and

·      Strengthen social ties and self-worth

When people express gratitude to each other, they acknowledge the goodness which resides outside of them and connect with this source. In an organizational context, this source is the ‘colleagues’ and the support received from them. When people feel grateful, they are more willing to help others. They have better self-control, engage lesser in gossip, and are more polite. As a result, they are better colleagues. At the most fundamental level, gratitude creates a foundation for better relationships and collaboration.

Studies also show that when employees feel appreciated, they are more motivated, more productive, and less likely to leave the organization.

How to create a culture of gratitude?

Culture is driven from the top. When leaders serve as role models and express genuine appreciation at every opportunity, they signal the expected behavioral norm to the rest of the organization.

It matters what you say and how you say it. The most effective way to express gratitude is to be specific about what you are grateful for, explain why it was meaningful to you, and highlight what you appreciate about the other person. It helps the receiver see themselves positively and feel understood and appreciated.

Expressions of appreciation from senior stakeholders and beneficiaries of their work carry a lot of value for employees. They matter even more when the interaction is limited due to a remote or hybrid operating model.

Acknowledging employees at key times like the end of the quarter, year, or on a personal milestone, e.g., an “years of service” award, makes employees feel cared for by their organization.

Employees feel more valued when they see that their manager took the time and effort to personalize the token of appreciation.

Leaders need to inspire the practice of gratitude rather than making it a mandatory exercise or a tick-in-the-box. Creating a culture of gratitude means making gestures of appreciation for others visible and a way of life.  For example –

–        Having a wall or a channel for appreciation where employees can recognize colleagues.

–        Starting meetings with a note of gratitude for what or who the team members are thankful for/to.

–        Running initiatives like coffee with the leader as a gesture of appreciation

To summarize, leading with gratitude and cultivating a culture of appreciation in the organization boosts employee well-being and performance. When people feel seen and acknowledged, they return the favor, invest more in their efforts, and form stronger connections.

PS – How do you build the practice of gratitude in your teams? I would love to know your experience.