Stories and seminars about fueling high-performance teams typically focus on communication, leadership, and technological tools. This article covers our favorite simple leadership practice to reflect on this time of year — gratitude.
End of year is a natural time to kickstart or amplify your team’s gratitude practice. Let’s talk about what that means and how you can get started today.
Gratitude is more than the occasional ‘thank you’
Gratitude in the workplace is a vibrant, ongoing celebration of contribution and effort. It's about recognizing not just the big wins but the small steps, the late nights, and the 'above and beyond' that team members pour into their work. This kind of gratitude isn't a mere transaction; it's an acknowledgment of the unique value each person brings to the table, creating a deeper sense of belonging and purpose. It's a force that not only fuels individual satisfaction but also ignites team inspiration and drives collective success. When we practice gratitude at work, we're not just appreciating what's been accomplished; we're energizing our team for what's yet to come.
The benefits of gratitude are intuitive and backed by science
Here is a small sample of the evidence:
- Gratitude is tied to job satisfaction (Waters, 2012) and promotes prosocial behaviors (Michie, 2009; Andersson, Giacalone, & Jurkiewicz, 2007; Spence, Brown, Keeping, & Lian, 2013)
- Employees valuing concern for others tend to excel and stay motivated (Grant & Wrzesniewski, 2010)
- Gratitude interventions enhance employee performance (Grant & Gino, 2010), improve well-being and job satisfaction (Chan, 2010, 2011), reduce symptoms of depression and stress (Cheng, Tsui, & Lam, 2015), and increase positive job-related feelings (Kaplan et al., 2014)
This isn't touchy-feely talk; it's neuroscience. Gratitude triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, which actively "crowds out" feelings of frustration, envy, and other negative emotions that can bring any team down. Gratitude also fosters empathy, reduces stress, and can significantly improve mental well-being.
These studies, and many more, reaffirm what we may have experienced or know intuitively: authentic gratitude well expressed is a powerful (and cost-effective) flywheel to accelerate positive change in your team.
Actionable Ways to Cultivate Gratitude in Your Team
With the 'why' as our foundation, let's now explore the 'how.'
Start with Yourself
As a leader, set the tone by practicing gratitude yourself. A quick thank-you note or a brief shout-out during a meeting takes little time but goes a long way.
During team meetings, allocate a few minutes for ‘Gratitude Moments.’ Allow team members to publicly acknowledge and thank colleagues for their help or contributions. It's not just the receiver who benefits; the act of expressing gratitude is incredibly fulfilling.
Gratitude Feedback Channel
One lightweight way to boost team members' morale is to create a public space to share notes of appreciation from each other and external customers. We use Slack, but these suggestions can be done on any messaging channel or platform.
In our company, we have multiple channels where we foster gratitude. One example is our “#cookie-jar” channel where we share the wonderful feedback and positive experiences we hear from our customers. We have another “#appreciations” channel for sharing internal appreciations and have dedicated sections in meetings, and in many Rising Team sessions, to share about what moves us in our lives. In many ways big and small, seen and unseen, we commit ourselves to a cultivating a culture of gratitude because it’s good for our team members, our customers, and our bottom line.
Build It into Performance Reviews
Incorporate core values or desired qualities – the how to balance your performance whats – into performance reviews and have one for gratitude. This isn’t about quantifying thanks but encouraging a culture where recognition is valued and rewarded. For example, you can evaluate employees based on their active involvement in peer appreciation initiatives and their ability to recognize new angles and maintain perspective during challenging times.
Transform Challenges into Opportunities for Gratitude
Problems and conflicts are inevitable in any team. But how we approach them can be a powerful exercise in gratitude. When issues arise, use them as an opportunity to teach problem-solving skills and cultivate resilience. Thank your team for their patience, flexibility, and input in navigating these challenges. It not only resolves issues more harmoniously but instills a sense of collective accomplishment and gratitude.
Gratitude’s Lasting Impact
In this ever-evolving landscape of remote work, cultural shifts, and digital advancements, it’s important to remember that gratitude is not a mere checkbox but a profound force that binds teams together. A consistent practice of gratitude creates ripples that extend far beyond the surface, enriching both our personal and professional lives.
By choosing to embrace, encourage, and celebrate gratitude, we not only ensure contentment but also forge stronger connections, deeper commitment, and heightened productivity within our teams.
As we look to the future of work, it's imperative not to focus solely on technological innovations or management trends. Let’s embrace the humanity that makes us resilient, collaborative, and ultimately successful. Gratitude is a strong foundation and framing to build a brighter, more prosperous future together.