Many people agree that our culture is growing more impatient, selfish, disrespectful and ungrateful. Those who haven’t noticed are likely not bothered, and may be contributing to these disturbing tendencies. Not exactly glowing statements on our day and age.
These attitudes and behaviors are also visible in every corner of the working world, as organizations struggle to keep employees engaged, loyal, civil and productive. Employees have no difficulty pinpointing the things that annoy them, while taking little time to reflect on those that please them. A displeased workforce yields low returns on the skills and experience invested in it.
Traditionally, leaders have been responsible for setting the tone and correcting a culture. However, those who portray disturbing behaviors can expect their people to live them out as well. Leaders who can exhibit positive behaviors make a tremendous difference in how their people respond, relate to each other and enjoy their work. Positive behavior depends on a positive mindset, and the cornerstone of it all is gratitude.
Gratitude vs Ingratitude
Gratitude is the appreciation for being a benefactor of something that has made your life better. It’s also a recognition that either you didn’t cause it or deserve it. Gratitude is a thankfulness for what you have, who you are or what opportunities lay before you. It stirs satisfying feelings that are promising, optimistic and calming.
Leaders with gratitude know they’ve been given something from a source bigger than themselves, causing a favorable condition with a lasting effect. This creates a positive mindset that can’t be concealed. That mindset fashions a beneficial outlook, which steers helpful actions. This is the best life enhancing tool for leaders and those they lead.
According to executive coach Christine Comaford in her 2017 Forbes article, Great Leaders have an Attitude of Gratitude – Do You?, a grateful mindset offers leaders a positive emotional reserve that can be tapped when tough situations arise. This is a great tool to thrive under pressure, to be motivated to overcome challenges. Alternatively, ingratitude leads to negative emotions that drag a spirit down. A negative focus doesn’t inspire satisfaction, ideas, solutions or helpful decisions.
Grateful leaders see conditions more positively and experience less stress and fatigue. This allows for a better focus, reason and discernment—in all a healthier leadership. Contrary to this, ungrateful leaders are often burdened with debilitating stress and are more susceptible to burnout. A negative outlook misjudges situations, causing mistakes, missed opportunities and unfortunate responses.
Gratitude often spurs compassion and kindness toward others. This draws employees and forms their loyalty, trust and engagement. People find these qualities difficult to resist. They want to be around a leader who’s grateful, and in turn become more grateful themselves. The opposite effect is true for ungrateful leaders: they are hard to deal with. People avoid them and have no desire to know them. Ingratitude spreads like a disease, causing the culture to grow toxic.
Growing Your Internal Gratitude
No question, gratitude is a perspective that forms your mindset and world view. These act as valuable foundations for a positive, value-based life, both corporately and personally. This benefits the people around you as well. But how can you grow this trait within you? How can the seeds of gratitude get planted in your mind?
A fundamental approach is to take stock of what you’ve been given: what skills you’ve acquired, what opportunities came your way, what successes you’ve enjoyed and what people have made your life better. In other words, deciding to focus on the positive aspects of your life is a primary step to being thankful.
Appreciate the small things you have, the little gains that could have benefitted someone else, but came your way. Everyone’s life can be a celebration of positive things. It’s a choice. Take a look back in time and revisit the journey you’ve been on and see how far you’ve come. Isn’t that worth being thankful? When stress rises think of those things you’re thankful for and foster a better perspective.
Recognizing the relative nature of things can also help develop a spirit of gratitude. You likely know of people who are burdened by things that don’t affect you. There are always tougher stories out there. Being thankful for what you don’t have to deal with can complement the thankfulness for the good things you have.
To keep you on the right track, surround yourself with people that can lift your spirits. These are most likely other grateful people. You’ll be surprised how sufficiently their gratitude wears off on you. An executive coach can put you on the right path and encourage you along the way, helping you to train your brain to lean to the positive side of things.
Building a Culture of Gratitude
Since all leaders mold their culture one way or another, a grateful leader influences their people in ways that demonstrate the benefits of thankfulness. People see the difference and they like it, wanting more of it. Work life becomes more enjoyable and rewarding. Leading by example is the most powerful means to prompt a better environment, as your people take on the culture-enhancing aspects of your gratitude.
Noted author and coach DeLores Pressley puts it simply in Smart Business Magazine, authenticity is the best way to make an impression. Phony gratitude is noticeable. Showing your staff that you’re thankful for them is a significant demonstration of gratitude. People who feel valued return the sentiment.
To solidify this theme, leaders who make it a habit to thank their people build a culture of mutual appreciation and emulation. Find ways to reach out to them and add value with thanks, appreciation, congratulations for accomplishments and helpfulness. Giving them your best, with your time and your skills, tells them you’re grateful for having them on your staff.
Leaders who point to the positives in everyday activities reveal a grateful spirit. Of course, there are negative issues in every organization, and lamenting with grumbling or resentment drags everyone down. However, emphasizing a focus on positive solutions or valued lessons learned draws out thankfulness in everyone. Building on positives enhances the opportunities for more, and it unites people in a common, worthy cause. That’s worth being thankful for, too.
Believing in your leadership abilities and the skills of your people, giving them grace when they err and support when they succeed, crafts a positive and grateful culture that has no limits. Make it your example and your expectation that a positive, thankful mindset is what your organization needs in order to prosper. Certainly no one will object to that.