By Jaimy Ford, business writer and editor.
When you receive genuine, heart-felt gratitude, it feels amazing. However, showing your gratitude is just as powerful. Study after study indicates that feeling grateful and showing others just how grateful you for them, can benefit your whole health. People who are grateful tend to:
- Build stronger relationships
- Sleep better
- Endure fewer aches and pains
- Exercise more often
- Stress less
- Experience fewer toxic emotions and negative thoughts
- Possess higher self-esteem and resiliency
Perhaps most important: People who are grateful are overall happier.
More than that, every time they show their gratitude, they make other people happier. With all the benefits, why is it that many leaders simply aren’t grateful? Perhaps they’ve trained their brains to think of worst-case scenarios or focus only on what could go wrong. After all, it’s their job to prevent and overcome problems. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. That focus is what will drive performance and keep people on track.
However, focusing on what’s wrong all the time, means you aren’t appreciating when things go right. It means you aren’t appreciating the loyal workers who are doing their best to succeed, and it almost always means you aren’t acknowledging them for their effort. So what can you do to become a more grateful leader? Start here:
Stop looking for the cracks
It’s your job to find inefficiencies and obstacles so that you can make improvements. You should be monitoring progress toward your goals and make changes if your team is off track. Still, if all you focus on are problems, that’s all you will see.
Take a step back and look at the big picture. Note how far you’ve come and how much progress you’ve made. Be grateful for the small wins, and share that gratitude with your team—the people who made it happen. Better yet, tell them each specifically something they’ve done that you appreciate and how they specifically helped the team.
That specific feedback tells employees that you are paying attention. That you see what they are doing, and that it matters to you, the team and the organization. As an added bonus, the more they hear it, the harder they’ll work.
Focus on the opportunities
Few things go as planned, and you can experience some pretty devastating blows in your life and career. Grateful people can find the lesson in any situation and turn it into an opportunity. A friend of mine who leads a project team for a major software developer once told me how after a recent product upgrade, his company lost a major customer who didn’t go easy on his team when explaining the reasons—publicly—about why the customer was defecting. Everyone was up in arms, and people were worried about what upper management was going to do.
My friend told me he walked into the meeting with the top brass and said “This is the best feedback we could have received. We know exactly what to do to fix the problem. The way the customer handled it was unfortunate, but had we not received that feedback, who knows how many more customers we would have lost. It’s a golden opportunity to improve the product, and here is how I suggest we do it …” The upper management team agreed with the plan and promoted my friend not to long after that.
When you can find a reason to be thankful during the worst times, you improve your mindset, bounce back more quickly and are better equipped to problem solve and move forward. Even if you find it hard to be thankful in the moment, revisit challenges and trying times later. Ask yourself or your team:
- Looking back, what can I/we be thankful for?
- What strengths did I/we show during that time? How did I/we surprise myself/ourselves?
- How am I/are we better because of it?
Overall time, you will train your brain to immediately look for the opportunities and be grateful for the lessons, no matter how painful they were at the time.
Most people can’t just turn on a switch and suddenly become grateful. It takes time. However, the payoff both for you and for your team will be well worth the effort, so ask yourself: What can I do today to share my gratitude with my team?
Then take the first step.