Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is one of my favorite holidays as it offers a time to rest, relax, and spend time with family. Another reason I like Thanksgiving is that it was one of the first celebrations of mixed cultures on our continent. This feast lasted three days, and it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims*.
This early event stands out because these two peoples came together to express gratitude – or give thanks – for the bountiful harvest they enjoyed because of helping one another through the year. The Native Americans taught the settlers how to catch fish and grow corn. The settlers expressed their appreciation by hosting this large feast. It was a moment of peace and tranquility between these two cultures.
Throughout my career I have worked with many leaders. Many stand out for one reason or another, yet there was one man who became my role model for expressing gratitude. You could count on him to regularly express appreciation, and do so in a genuine, authentic manner. He was highly revered as a leader, as many of his people said they’d do just about anything for him. This kind of solidarity and loyalty creates an organization that can achieve much.
One project we were on came in on-time and under budget with little disruption. All the project’s goals were met. Since projects continue to fail at an astronomical 70% (according to the Project Management Institute), this is a remarkable achievement. I owe it in part to this leader’s ability to genuinely express gratitude for the people in his organization.
How can you create greater value by expressing gratitude?
- “Catch people in the act of doing something right.” So often managers focus on solving problems and mitigating risk. They also need to consider the things that are going well and acknowledge them.
- Express appreciation. This can be done in many ways.
- A private thank you in a one-on-one meeting.
- A public thank you to celebrate the accomplishment of one or more individuals.
- A written note (not email!). One of the most memorable acknowledgements I received was from a client who took the time to write a note expressing her appreciation for the value I contributed.
- Be authentic. This cannot be overemphasized. Especially if this is new to you. Employees will wonder if their leader is “real” if they suddenly start offering appreciation.
- Be consistent. Do this regularly. Make it a part of your routine. Don’t do this for a couple of weeks then stop. It will likely be considered a flash in the pan and cause more harm than good.
As you regularly incorporate gratitude in your leadership style, you’ll be amazed at the benefits. But be sincere. If you are only doing this to drive value, your people will see through you.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
* Winslow, Edward (1622), Mourt’s Relation, p. 133, “Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted;” and Primary Sources for “The First Thanksgiving” at Plymouth. Pilgrim Hall Museum. The 53 Pilgrims at the First Thanksgiving.