Nurturing a Culture of Gratitude and Appreciation

Do you consider yourself an ambassador of the culture at your workplace? If not, why not? Is the culture one that aligns with your personal values, is it one you are proud to represent? One baseline measure of a healthy work culture is how much gratitude is expressed for individual contributions. In this time of the “Great Resignation” and an ongoing pandemic, why are leaders still not getting this right? How do we release more appreciation?

In September of 2020, Michael D.C. Fishman, MD wrote an article for the National Institutes of Health called The Silver Linings Journal: Gratitude During a Pandemic. (Michael D. C. Fishman, 2020) Every word of this article was true before the pandemic and will be true long after the pandemic. Gratitude matters. It can change your perspective in a moment, or the outlook of another person’s day. The benefits greatly outweigh any perceived effort to show appreciation to someone or to pause long enough to acknowledge what went well for you in the last day or week.

Leaders who weave appreciation effortlessly into their day typically have great self-awareness and are well connected to their purpose. You can take a brief quiz to assess the key components of how well you attend to your spirit, or what we call all things “woowoo.” In previous articles we identified the behaviors that fall under each component as well as the essential personas of a thriving leader. Gratitude shows up on both lists – it is that foundational to wellbeing: yours and others.

In chapter fifteen of Quint Studer’s recent book, The Calling, he reinforces the power of reward and recognition and provides some tips on how to hardwire this practice. Quint’s perspective on the effect of gratitude on the culture of an organization is spot on. He offers, “Rather than building a culture that focuses on what’s wrong or what we could improve, we can build a culture of appreciation, recognition, and usefulness.” (Studer, 2021)

When I was a young leader, my boss shared my employee engagement results with me, and I was horrified to learn my team did not feel I acknowledged their efforts well. As the executive housekeeper at a five-star and five-diamond Four Seasons Hotel, I felt grateful that everyone showed up to work. I was delighted when all the rooms were cleaned on time and when VIP suites sparkled with extra touches. I was over-joyed when the laundry machines remained operational all day and linens were processed in a timely manner. I spun in a daily world of managing details but missed the most important details: the efforts of hard-working teams who proudly did their best work every day.

In my “busyness” I did not prioritize the recognition of individual or even team contributions. I spent more time moving towards the challenges and trouble shooting issues. I did not spend a moment wallowing in my own accomplishments either. What I didn’t know then was that recognizing what I was grateful for each day would fill me up and activate my appreciation of others. Pausing long enough to reflect on what is going well, what has been accomplished, even what was avoided, is like a deep breath in. It is nourishing and fuels every cell.

Expressing gratitude to others is a big breath out. It releases and spreads joy.

As an ambassador of your company culture, you can get this right. Not just this week when we are focused on giving thanks, but every day of every week. It begins with you and your ability to practice the pause and contemplate that for which you are grateful. As doctor Fishman’s article suggests, you might start a gratitude journal. Apps such as Day One make it super easy to log a statement of gratitude each day.

The next step is your “winwin” – expressing your gratitude for the contribution of another person. You will fill them up! You will elevate the culture of your organization and be leading from a place of joy.

You will find The Six Personas of a Thriving Leader list on the Thriving Leader Collaborative learning site. We invite you to take the quick quizzes for assessing how you attend to your spirit and how you thrive as a leader. We call these our “woowoo” and “winwin” assessments – take them today for free! -

Have a look at our upcoming Thriving Leader Collaborative retreats on our new website and join the conversation in the TLC Community.

Works Cited

Michael D. C. Fishman, M. (2020). The Silver Linings Journal: Gratitude During a Pandemic. National Institutes of Health, 149–150.

Studer, Q. (2021). The Calling. Pensacola: The Gratitude Publishing Company.

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