Could your workplace benefit from greater morale and engagement?
The answer may be simply to develop a workplace culture of gratitude. This may seem odd to many, since gratitude has long been considered a “soft” practice, but the results are dynamic.
In fact, developing a culture of gratitude helps elevate wellness, engagement, productivity and employee retention. And these things are measurable.
Moreover, gratitude has been called the gateway to developing greater empathy and compassion, which are cornerstones of group emotional intelligence on high-performing teams.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful.
But it differs from appreciation.
Whereas appreciation is thankfulness for the goodness in our lives, gratitude moves beyond this. It attributes these positive things to forces outside ourselves. For example, noting an accomplishment at work will include recognizing the efforts and contributions of others in making this a success.
Moreover, if gratitude is to become a culture embraced by the organization, it must be systematized so that it is replicable. Where do we begin?
Gratitude starts at the top.
We must start at the top, agreeing at the executive team level to identify and coordinate the practice of gratitude. Then, modeling this, we must also teach them to reports, replicating this throughout so that it cascades throughout the entire workforce.
Where do you begin?
Define key approaches your organization can take to express gratitude.
Begin with “thank you.” How does your organization address recognition? It may have yearly events where people are recognized for years of service, outstanding performance, and other categories.
But what can expressing gratitude in the workplace look like on a more regular basis? Where and how can you say thank you more often? This may take the form of virtual or physical “walls” that provide shout-outs. It may be in the form of a handwritten note or other special gesture. Decide how gratitude looks at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
Assess for gaps and growth opportunities at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
As you design your organizational gratitude practice, make sure you examine how these thread through from the individual to team, and from team to organization, so that the practice cascades throughout. For example, does your organization preach work-life balance, but quietly expect that people will work 80 hours weekly? This requires not only conversations but reexamining the organizational model to see how to restructure and grow the resources needed for its employees to enjoy balance.
Identify the behaviors that support these approaches.
Many times, change management practices fail only because the organization has defined categories of improvement, but it has not identified the supporting behaviors that support each category.
For example, if a category within your defined gratitude practice is “recognize a job well done,” what are the behaviors associated with this? How will we know this recognition is occurring?
An example might be, “timely acknowledgment through personal call or thank you note.” Be sure to address the whole person as you define behaviors to be recognized. Focusing solely on top performers omits all those supporting the process who contribute greatness through character, such as going the extra mile, exhibiting great compassion, and other traits. And these are the heart of the organization – the very stuff that keeps it going.
Model these behaviors to begin establishing the culture.
As chief executive, how are you expressing gratitude for others in the workplace? Facets of your expression should include being sincere, specific, and humble. As an insincere acknowledgment erodes trust, so does a sincere expression build it.
Beyond this, a simple “thank you” is not enough without saying why you are thankful. Give specifics as to how someone else’s behaviors or actions resulted in a positive outcome or tenor. And third, be humble and keep this about the other person. It is always disappointing to hear of an acknowledgment that turns a message into something that is all about you or the project itself. Make sure you give ample light and credit to the person you are recognizing.
Reward these behaviors in others as you recognize them in order to reinforce the culture.
How can you reinforce these behaviors in others? What does acknowledgment of these look like? And how can you hold your managers accountable for supporting this? Do you need to build this into expectations? And what does that look like?
Gratitude, when practiced with a sincere heart, can turn around an ailing culture. Be sure to address it. And be sure that it starts with you.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.