Most business people understand that expressions of gratitude for others’ efforts can be a huge motivation and productivity booster to their teams, especially during tough times. Yet while practicing gratitude seems like it should be a no-brainer, it’s anything but common say my friends and leadership experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.
These two New York Times bestselling authors have devoted decades to teaching executives around the world how to be more effective. Gostick said, “Most leaders know that showing gratitude to their folks is an essential part of good management. But when we interview their teams, employees say they feel unappreciated. Many employees claim they actually feel under assault.”
In their fabulous new book Leading with Gratitude, Gostick & Elton show the ingratitude myths that managers fall prey to at work. For example: I just don’t have time to thank my people, it’s better to be stingy with recognition, or people want too much praise these days.
How to Lead with Gratitude
In Leading with Gratitude, the authors introduce a series of practical steps to become better at this basic leadership skill. They include:
1. Look for Small Wins
Research finds the single most important factor in boosting motivation in the creative process is when employees feel they are making daily progress in meaningful work. One of the most distinctive attributes of the great leaders studied in this book is they notice and express appreciation for small-scale efforts as much as they celebrate major achievements.
2. Tailor to the Individual
A lot of leaders think one-size-fits-all when it comes to gratitude. For instance, they give out Starbucks cards to everyone who does anything noteworthy. As one manager profiled, one of his star employees didn’t even drink coffee was passing along the cards—he was awarding her—to her neighbor. Not everyone in a leader’s care appreciates the same rewards. We humans have very different motivators at work. Smart leaders use the knowledge of individual motivators to tailor expressions of gratitude to each team member.
3. Make it Peer-to-Peer
Manager-to-employee and peer-to-peer gratitude fulfill separate human needs. When employees are grateful to each other, they affirm positive concepts typically valued in their colleagues, such as trustworthiness, dependability, and talent—reinforcing the concept of psychological safety. Great managers encourage this type of peer-to-peer reinforcement of their values.
4. Take it Home
One leader interviewed by the authors described a typical dinner conversation with his kids: “How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.” So he instituted a practice where they all go around the dinner table and each says three things: their favorite moment of the day, one person they’re grateful for who’s not at the table, and one person that they’re grateful at the table who hasn’t been thanked yet. He said, “My kids crazy hated the idea at first, but now it’s a practice we do every day and they’re proud of it.”
Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are authors of the new book Leading with Gratitude as well as six other New York Times bestsellers.