November 26, 2020

TPL Insights: Building Peak Performance Cultures #43 – A Thanksgiving Case for Gratitude

By Rob Andrews


There is no better time of the year to express gratitude than Thanksgiving. A blinding flash of the obvious, right? Less obvious is how a daily commitment to gratitude makes for a better leader on many levels. The effects of gratitude were studied in the works of Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California, Davis. Emmons studied the impact of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being, and our relationships with others. Immersed in this work for over a decade, Emmons found that gratitude comes with benefits few realize.

Practicing gratitude leads to better physical health. Being thankful, even during days when things are not going your way, lowers stress. Operating under a constant state of stress bathes your organs with a constant solution of cortisol and adrenaline which will ultimately burn them out and ruin your health. Hard-charging leaders need to be diligent about practicing gratitude and maintaining a sense of optimism. 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, so gratitude and optimism may not be top of mind, but they are necessary. Emmons found that people who set aside time each day to reflect and give thanks have stronger immune systems, fewer aches and pains, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass indices. They also tend to exercise more and enjoy more consistent restorative sleep.

There are plenty of psychological benefits as well. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Emmons has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. While these are things anyone can enjoy, they’re particularly useful for leaders. When we’re thankful and optimistic, others gravitate towards us. Being approachable and inviting is key when attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent. Try these simple things to allow gratitude to enhance your leadership.

Schedule Time Every Day to Reflect and Express Gratitude

With everything you have on your plate, this one might seem difficult. If you block out a specific time to practice gratitude, it will soon become a habit. You can up your awareness by scheduling time to reflect with gratitude during a break. Consider a meditation-moment by closing your eyes and thinking about any pleasant surprises you’ve experienced so far. Imagine what life would be like without your valued colleagues. Consider how well your business is doing — and the thanks should go to your customers, employees, and your community.

Celebrate the First Downs along with the Touch Downs

We all love celebrating significant milestones, and you definitely shouldn’t stop doing that. But the massive breakthroughs don’t happen daily. However, each day you encounter smaller victories and happy moments. With that in mind, if you catch a team member doing something awesome, don’t hesitate to let them know you like that and appreciate their efforts. Those seemingly unimportant words of encouragement will add-up over time. Compliments should be authentic and genuine. Keep in mind the importance of eye contact, an actual win, a real compliment. When your efforts are genuine, it makes the other person feel like a million bucks and becomes natural to you. Examples could be complimenting your colleagues on their sense of humor, asking questions, always arriving early, or taking the initiative. Other options could be recognizing how helpful someone on the team is to others — their positive attitude, and their creativity or knowledge.

Be Grateful for the Entire Team

Every workplace has a “rockstar.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, you don’t want to always shine the spotlight on them. Give a shoutout to the back-up-singers, the backing band, and roadies as well. Recognize your support columns, not just your angel-corbels at the top. Take a real interest in your teammates.  Take a couple of minutes to shoot the breeze with them. Some of your employees have no one but their work team to lean on. Send an email, shoot out a quick message — do something. Ask your team questions so you get to know who they are. Inquire about how they’re doing, and what they’re into and thinking about. It’s a simple way to show that you care about them as a person and that they’re a part of your community.

Provide Opportunities for Growth and Success

Research from ClearCompany shows that 76% of employees want opportunities for career growth. Provide them with personal and professional learning opportunities. Examples are online classes, workshops, or the chance to participate in an industry conference. When employees can voice their opinions and share their ideas, they feel more valued. It’s also another way to express your gratitude since it lets them know that you want them involved in big decisions and successes.

Stay Focused on a Culture of Peak Performance

Finally, focusing on building a culture of peak performance will make your team happier, more fulfilled,  productive, creative, collaborative, and profitable. Being deliberate and articulate about the culture you’re trying to build and engaging your workforce in the process will add tremendous enthusiasm and make your employees feel more like owners.

From our research here at Allen Austin, we know that employees in organizations driven by strong purposeful cultures are exceeding grateful. Leaders in these companies are relentlessly focused on building culture, and communicating so that all their employees believe what they are saying, know where they are going, and that there is something in it for them. Companies with purposeful cultures make more money, deliver more value, and have more fun. In these kinds of rare cultures, gratitude abounds.

 For more information on building cultures of peak performance, please give me a call.

Warmest Regards,