Companies look for novel ways to reward their top employees, giving everything from gift cards, to the latest electronic gadgets, to polo shirts embroidered with the company logo. But leaders often overlook the one gift employees want most – and it happens to be the gift that may do the most to keep them motivated and engaged. Best of all, this gift doesn’t require a line item in your employee recognition budget. What is it? Gratitude.
Expressing gratitude, scholars say, is actually beneficial in three significant ways. First, being grateful increases your happiness. Second, gratitude is a mechanism that serves to literally recharge your batteries… Consider being grateful high-octane fuel for your engine. Lastly, thankful people are more engaged and productive, both personally and professionally.
As humans, we have a basic need to feel recognized and appreciated in order to sustain a happy, pleasurable life. When people feel valued, they remain engaged, passionate, and feel a deeper connection to their personal and professional life. Sadly, most people remain too focused on themselves or too busy with all of life’s obligations to put concerted effort into making those around us feel valued and appreciated.
Leaders have a responsibility to foster a values-driven culture of gratitude, and those who do so well will realize many organizational benefits. These include increased engagement, higher organizational commitment, increased social/intellectual capital, and positive impact on the health, happiness, and well-being of employees. This culture of gratitude is drawing corporations out of the quagmire of selfishness and into the interconnected web of humanity. The magic happens when strength of purpose is coupled with a culture of trust, care and gratitude. Leaders are responsible for trailblazing the path that leads to this culture… but how do they do it?
As a leader, you give of yourself constantly. You selflessly give your time, expertise, physical and emotional energy and intellectual capital. You may find yourself so busy with your task lists and meeting calendar that you don’t stop to breathe, reflect, and consider how you are (or are not) leading a culture of care and gratitude.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- For what am I most thankful today?
- Did I role-model gratitude today?
- How have I demonstrated gratitude today to those I love?
- How have I demonstrated gratitude to the teams that I lead?
- What have I celebrated recently, professionally and/or personally? What can I celebrate today?
- Thankful people are happier.
- Thankful people are healthier.
- Thankful employees are more engaged and productive.
- Being thankful recharges your batteries and gives you a sense of renewal.
Being a grateful leader will help you create a more positive, passionate and purposeful connection with the people you lead. In turn, your team (and organization) will realize powerful results in engagement and performance. The benefits are undeniable and the return empirical. Make a commitment to be more deliberate in your expression of gratitude, during throughout this New Year! Your two-word mantra for success? Practice gratitude.
Carla Worthey is the director of executive development for HCA, Inc., and a doctoral student with the Center for Values-Driven Leadership.
For more on gratitude, see Positive Relationships Spur Excellent Performance.