There’s all sorts of science out there that supports the notion that gratitude is good for us. Psychology Today, for instance, ran an article not long ago that listed seven “scientifically proven” benefits of having a thankful attitude. Among them: You’ll be more physically fit, sleep better, and increase your mental strength. Plus, you’ll become fabulously wealthy.
Ok, I made that last one up. But if it does happen, you’ll have another reason to be thankful. In the meantime, you might need some other reasons to embrace an attitude of gratitude. But when you’re counting those blessings, don’t limit yourself to the typical personal things like your health, your family, and your friends. Extreme Leaders go further. So, you should also give thanks to the people in your work world – to your employees, your colleagues, and your customers and clients, not just for what they do, but for who they are. That’s one way you demonstrate love as a leader.
It’s always good to acknowledge people for their work performance – for meeting deadlines, achieving goals, hitting targets, etc. But many of their contributions are hard to measure, even though they add real value – things like compassion, service to others, grit, or honesty. Express your gratitude by rewarding those things. Give someone a bonus or a raise or a gift certificate to the movie theater, for instance, simply because you appreciate who they are. You might have arrived at that appreciation because of their actions, but focus on the actions that are selfless and not tied directly to their performance review – catching them in the act of cleaning the break room or regularly helping co-workers solve problems even when it’s not part of their job description.
I define colleagues as people in my work circle who don’t look at me as their boss. It could be someone on the same rung of the organizational ladder, vendors or other people who work with your organization but not within it.
Because you work with them and around them, these folks provide value through the things they do for you. But you will make their day if you find some tangible way to express your gratitude for their character. You might send a heart-felt email thanking them for always responding promptly to your questions. Or maybe can publicly acknowledge how they handled a difficult situation with a co-worker or client.
Customers and clients
Who among us isn’t thankful for our customers and clients? They keep us in business, right? But how can we thank them for who they are, not just what they do for us?
One way is to nominate them for an award. For instance, some publications recognize individuals and businesses in special issues. You might nominate someone for a 40-under-40 list or nominate a company as best-in-class. Or consider the impact on your best client if she’s driving into work when she hears an ad on the radio and it’s your voice listing her company as one that operates with the values you respect and admire.
You also might even reward them on the spot when you witness them doing something you appreciate. If you own a shoe store, for instance, you could give away something each day to a valued customer. Imagine these words from you or a salesperson: “We noticed how patient and loving you are with your toddler, and we really admire that. Here’s a certificate for a free ice cream cone at the shop next door.”
We all appreciate recognition for helping our teams and organizations succeed. But we also have a basic human need to feel loved and appreciated for something more. Unconditional love says, You are important to me because you are you. The more you share that message, the more trust you build and the more you inspire others.
[This post was originally published on my weekly column at Inc.com]