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How to Be a Better Leader with Two Words

March 3, 2020

We all know the importance of employee morale, and how it can take a toll in the healthcare system. These employees are doing some of the most difficult, amazing, thankless work and two words can alleviate some employee tension.

The two magic words: Thank you.

Gratitude, which is frequently linked with mental health, is also linked with corporate health. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they increase their productivity – which is always good for the bottom line. A generous culture should be fostered within an organization and it starts with a good leader to embody this virtue.

Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, says “Unfortunately, I think way too many leaders don’t understand how critical it is to create an engaged workforce to achieve incredibly difficult goals. The best companies use gratitude to encourage everyone to give their best work.” Ms. Schlichting believes it is the CEO’s responsibility to manifest this culture of appreciation and create an environment where everyone can reach their full potential.

“Gratitude is vital,” she says. “Many leaders don’t pay attention to the good things; they only focus on the bad. People need to be recognized both individually and collectively for the work they are doing.” Our society has a proclivity towards the negative, instead of positive. We focus on the “areas of growth,” issues that need tending to rather than overall functions, and dwell on problems of the past. Though these areas need attention, a simple expression of sincere gratitude can outweigh negative tendencies.

In a 2013 study by the John Templeton Foundation, 80% of over 2,000 full-time employees agreed that receiving appreciation made them work harder, and over 90% said that bosses who expressed gratitude were more successful leaders. A sincere word or expression doesn’t have to be elaborate. Ms. Schlichting says a call, note or email to her colleagues and staff are very meaningful to them. For team achievements, you might consider a staff luncheon or other social event. The Henry Ford Health System also gives out team awards during important annual meetings in front of the board of trustees, which secures leadership awareness.

“It’s so important to show appreciation and gratitude to people in healthcare because these people are doing amazing and difficult work every day,” says Ms. Schlichting. “Not everyone can do jobs in healthcare because of the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges involved. Each job is vitally important and nothing is easy.”

Cultivating a genuine culture of gratitude takes deliberate effort and it befits all leaders, especially in the healthcare field, to examine their own gratitude habits.


Brian A., brings over 25 years of broad-based Healthcare Executive Search management experience to the firm. For the majority of his career, Brian has focused in partnering with a wide portfolio of leading healthcare organizations in the hospital and healthcare arena conducting executive searches for Board, CEO, COO, CMO, CXO, CFO, Operations VP’s and business unit leaders across the nation and internationally.

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