A question was once posed to a business discussion group: How do you develop a culture of gratitude? A follow up question might be: Does an attitude of gratitude help the bottom line?
Gratitude and Feedback are similar. The lack of gratitude is feedback, but it may not necessarily be “bad” feedback. It can mean ambivalence. It can also mean a perception that what was done was already an expectation. Finally, it could mean performance did not meet expectation. Conversely, if you receive gratitude from someone, they are providing positive feedback.
There are simple rules to gratitude that go a long way. The following are four guidelines for effective delivery.
Show gratitude frequently. Even the smallest effort can be recognized. Send a personal note. If your organization has an eCard system, use it. A lot. Many eCard systems allow for a monetary attachment. Avoid using that feature. It may drive behaviors that will only be exhibited if the recipient is rewarded monetarily. Opt for pure gratitude instead.
Send as many notes or eCards as you can. Keep a list during the day of people who did things worthy of your appreciation. Acknowledge these efforts daily by sending personal notes or eCards at the end of the day. In time, you will come to find these simple acknowledgements of appreciation can pay big dividends for you and your organization. When you ask someone for help on an urgent matter, you may notice how easy your request escalates in priority for that individual, above other competing priorities. If you ask someone to take on an additional assignment, you may notice their likely hood of accepting increase. People are always willing to help someone who generally appreciates their effort.
Avoid vague and ambiguous gratitude. It is often viewed as hollow and insincere. Always specifically state the behavior or task for which you are grateful. Challenge yourself to use no more than 250 characters when writing a note or eCard. This forces you to be specific and brief, making it abundantly clear what you are grateful for. Following this pattern will likely have a more positive impact than a generic platitude. “Thanks for your help,” may be appropriate, but should be used very sparingly and only where the context for the gratitude is explicit. By being specific you are more likely to realize the same behavior you observed when you ask for help again from that individual.
Following the first two rules, “More Is Better,” and “Be Specific,” are helpful when the time comes for you to deliver an uncomfortable message. Face it; we live in the real world. From time to time we need to coach others on what could have been done differently. These discussions are much easier to digest by others when you have established a pattern of gratitude. Explaining to someone how to change a behavior or activity to produce better results is much easier to accept if the bearer of the message is frequent and consistent in delivering messages of gratitude. The perception of threat is diluted by the knowledge of gratitude.
As you model these behaviors demonstrating gratitude, opportunities will present themselves to coach and invite others in your organization to do the same. Life is not made of huge step changes. Frequently, big step changes represent something bad that has happened. The positive things we see in our lives come from incremental change, resulting from thoughtful disciplined effort. As you work on developing an attitude and behaviors that reflect gratitude, others will notice. You will find opportunities to coach and mentor others to do the same. By inviting and encouraging others to show their gratitude, you will eventually have critical mass in your organization. Voila! A culture of gratitude has been cultivated in the workplace.
A culture of gratitude is one that values the individual and their effort toward results. Failure is embraced as a learning opportunity, for which gratitude can be expressed. A culture of gratitude is more collaborative and more productive. A culture of gratitude has a higher probability that it will resolve conflict and position the organization on a more competitive footing.
Does an attitude of gratitude help the bottom line? Let us answer the question with another: Where’s the downside?
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