“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
— Albert Schweitzer
Since 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday, it has become the busiest travel day of the year. Family and friends now gather with traditions that include favorite dishes and year-end reflections. Around dinner tables, many share gratitude stories and write messages of appreciation.
Leaders, too, have the ability to create gratitude traditions in their workplaces and show appreciation to their employees. Gratitude, while one of a leader’s most powerful resources, is often underappreciated and underutilized.
Research overwhelmingly reveals that expressing gratitude is critical for the well-being of individuals and teams. In fact, expressing gratitude is the one leadership skill that helps employees navigate difficult situations, overcome perceptions of loss, improve physical/mental health, and build bonds among people and differences.
Recent research during the pandemic indicates that expressing gratitude or simply saying ‘thank you’ led to high satisfaction and well-being scores. And employees who express gratitude are more resilient, optimistic, and enjoy stronger work relationships.
When was the last time you intentionally expressed gratitude to a work colleague, direct report or your own manager? An educator friend of ours recently passed away, and his obituary read, “In lieu of flowers, please take time to thank a teacher who has had a positive effect on your life.” Appreciation makes a difference.
Try this for yourself. At the completion of a successful assignment or during your next virtual or in-person team meeting, take a few minutes to express gratitude to each of your team members for their specific, authentic contributions. Be explicit and ask others to join in. You will likely observe renewed energy, more stories/laughter, positive facial expressions, more engaged postures, and often, a kind of celebration. Too many leaders overlook opportunities to celebrate successes, acknowledge contributions and show appreciation for the people behind their organization’s success.
As you plan for and enjoy Thanksgiving festivities, we encourage you to take time to express gratitude to members on your team. As you embed appreciation into your leadership core, consider implementing one or two of the following suggestions into new habits and traditions.
💡 Say thank you both in person and virtually.
💡 Provide specific feedback for a job well done.
💡 Share what you appreciate about your teammates with others, even when those teammates are not around. This helps to build a culture of appreciation and gratitude.
💡 Celebrate each win with a note or happy dance (some leaders ring a bell…).
💡 Appreciate successes both inside and outside of work.
💡 Occasionally, join in and help team members with their work.
💡 Keep a gratitude journal as a reminder; writing even two or three items each day is rejuvenating.
💡 Send handwritten thank you notes—and if work has taken an employee away from his/her family, consider sending a note of gratitude to the spouse and children who have been missing their loved one due to long work hours.
💡 Express appreciation in front of others, especially upper management.
💡 Invite team members to express their appreciation of others.
Wishing you, your families and your team a season of gratitude that lasts year-round,