Thanksgiving All Year: How to Cultivate Gratitude in Your Leadership Style
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is a celebration of the universal human experience of gratitude. Being grateful for the good things in our lives is one of the most admirable and helpful human emotions‑ — and recent research indicates that gratitude can be good for our health and good for our productivity. It improves our sleep, mental strength, self-confidence, and relationship-building skills.
I am a big believer in the concept of mindfulness. I practice meditation and I try to cultivate a spirit of mindful leadership in the way I work with my team and manage my career. One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is gratitude, and I’d like to offer some ideas to practice gratitude in everyday life. Thanksgiving should not happen on only one day per year; there are many occasions throughout the year and in every work day to say “thanks” and put gratitude at the center of our work and our lives.
Here are a few easy ways that you can integrate gratitude into your leadership style at work.
Say “Thank You” Often — and In Public
One of the best ways to express gratitude in everyday life is by writing a thank-you note. At work, you should make a regular habit of writing thank-you notes, and reading them out loud in front of the team. Did someone on your team do an exceptional job or make extra effort to save the day? Thank them in front of the whole team. Gratitude and celebration should be shared. By sharing your thanks publicly, you are not only helping that one team member to feel better about themselves, you are helping to build stronger relationships and cohesion among the entire team.
Have a Team Gratitude Brainstorm
A popular gratitude practice is to keep a gratitude journal — writing down in a personal notebook whatever is going right in your life, or whatever you’re grateful for today. As a business leader, you can apply this concept to your entire team experience by having a regular “Gratitude Brainstorm” where everyone shares their ideas about what the team has accomplished and their reasons for feeling fortunate. This is a great way to remind the team of recent successes and to laugh together about silver linings on cloudy days. This type of brainstorming might also lead to some new inspiration for creative breakthroughs; when people are feeling peaceful and confident (feelings that tend to come from gratitude), they are often more likely to have their minds open to new ideas.
Be Grateful for the Present Moment
One of the components of mindfulness, which I practice, is meditation. Not everyone feels comfortable with meditation or like they know “how” to meditate, but I believe that anyone can benefit from sitting quietly with their thoughts and focusing on what they are grateful for in the present moment. This can be a valuable exercise to do during a stressful day, or after some disappointing news. If you can just sit quietly for a few minutes and think about whatever it is in life that you are grateful for (music, your family, the delicious lunch that you just ate, a walk in the park after work), you will often feel a surge of renewed mental energy which will help you face your challenges.
How often do you take time to be grateful to yourself? Does that sound arrogant or self-centered? It doesn’t have to be. Part of being a good leader is knowing how to feel comfortable with yourself and celebrate your own successes. You’re not a machine. You are a human being and you deserve rest, recognition, and gratitude. So write yourself a thank-you note!
What was something that you recently accomplished, a challenge that you overcame, or a delicate situation that you handled professionally? What are you proud of about yourself? What is your superpower as a leader? It’s not arrogant to give yourself a pat on the back now and then. In fact, from my experience, some of the most capable leaders are often too humble, self-critical, and resistant to compliments. High-achieving leaders often give so much to others and invest so much energy in helping their teams grow, that they do not treat themselves with enough compassion. So be gentle with yourself. As leaders, we want to change the world; but positive change begins within ourselves.
This year, I am grateful for my amazing family, my health, my wonderful and inspiring team, our fantastic company and partners, and for the continuing opportunity that we all have every day to do exciting work and to explore our potential to make a difference. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope we can all make gratitude a bigger part of our everyday lives in the years to come.