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Gratitude Is Good For Leadership…But Why?

Gratitude, leadership, organizational growthWith the celebration of the US holiday of Thanksgiving, it seems fitting for gratitude to be a topic in leadership circles. And it usually is for those of us in leadership and who work with leaders. However, there is is more to this than a feel-good exercise.

The research so far…

Over the last several years, Robert Emmons Ph.D. of University of California-Davis and Mike McCulloch, Director of Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory at University of Miami and many others have studied gratitude. The studies have found strong correlations between benefits and the practice of gratitude. For leaders, it is worth highlighting these benefits:

  • Prevents and/or reduces toxic, negative emotions
  • Supports resilience (to stress)
  • Encourages feelings of interconnectedness with people

By modeling gratitude, leaders can continuously nurture a positive organizational culture which leads to feelings of satisfaction, higher levels of productivity and fosters open mindsets. All good for responding to the ups and downs of any business.

Where does gratitude fit in with being a CEO?

As I have written on this blog before, your title doesn’t always reflect your role in your small to mid-sized business. You are the CEO with or without the title. It is more about using the CEO Mindset. Gratitude fits right in there. For a lot of business leaders, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activity. Sure, there are things you must do every day but there is also a need to prioritize and even let go of responsibilities that could be done by others or simply don’t fit your organizational culture or structure anymore.

Practicing habits of gratitude fits in with being a CEO. Here are some to think about:

  • Positive mindset so you can stay open for problem-solving, new ideas or whatever may pop up during the day
  • Increased patience so you can effectively train and delegate tasks to your team, particularly when your company is about to make a big leap
  • Noticing others’ contributions and saying “thank you” makes people feel respected and appreciated. This has a  direct effect on productivity and morale
  • Increases self-awareness by taking time to examine your day and list what you are grateful for. This process enables you to notice blind spots, mistakes, strengths and moments of joy.

  These may be just a starting point but it is interesting to see how gratitude supports what you want most for your company.

Reason(s) to incorporate gratitude into your leadership style

Incorporating gratitude into your day mindfully will certainly bring health and psychological benefits for you individually. However, in your role as leader, it is so much more. Leaders are always looking for ways to support productivity and high performance from their teams and employees. These are directly connected to the bottom line. Leaders who practice gratitude avoid taking their people for granted, foster the exchange of information and cooperation and build trust. Research keeps telling us that these qualities (among others) create much stronger business results. Imagine how you could positively affect your organization when you add gratitude to your leadership style!

 Image by GustavoFrazao/Fotolia

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Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

Thanks, gratitude, emotional intelligence, leadershipWith all of the recent interest in emotional intelligence and leadership, it is easy to wonder just what the fuss is about. When you break down mindfulness, you discover that it is simply focusing your attention to where you are and what you are doing at this moment. Break it down even further and couple that with this week’s  US holiday of Thanksgiving and you discover that one of the elements of emotional intelligence, gratitude,  can deepen your ability to lead more effectively.

Gratitude is a “chosen attitude”

With the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative, it can be hard to see positives. However, recent research has made some interesting discoveries about gratitude.

  • Better ability to ride out negative events
  • Energizing
  • Able to help others or access compassion more easily
  • Exemplifies emotional maturity
  • Helps access mindfulness more easily
  • Promotes physical health

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Richard Emmons, researcher and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, gratitude is both a cognitive and emotional process. Indeed, gratitude doesn’t work unless both are activated. Gratitude gets its power to influence our behavior when we choose to use it.

The intersection with leadership

Recent leadership research keeps coming back to the best leaders being the most emotionally intelligent. Gratitude reinforces the most basic pieces of emotional intelligence by combining both internal awareness of your emotional life with the external awareness of how we interact and experience other people. Appreciation of what is in your life is a way of opening yourself is certainly an aspect of the CEO Mindset. But there is a transformational piece that is a direct link to your leadership.

  • Saying thank you to particular people for their performance encourages loyalty and good will
  • The  positive attitude demonstrates resilience and the ability to tolerate positive and negative events competently
  • Helps remove the “white noise” of our lives and work so you can think clearly about how you want to lead and where you want your organization to go
  • Keeps you open to listening to positive and negative feedback so you continually learn how to lead better

 What will you give thanks for?

See for yourself how gratitude can be transforming. Keep a gratitude journal everyday by writing down three things you are grateful for. They can be anything from thanking someone for telling you how you are doing a lousy job to acknowledging the beautiful sunset you saw on your commute home. Find out how you aren’t as stressed by negative events. Make someone’s day by thanking them for his/her hard work on a specific task. Increased loyalty, positivity and productivity are pretty good outcomes if you are willing to cultivate gratitude into your daily schedule.

 How will this add to your leadership?

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Business, Gratitude and What Is In Your Heart

With the impending US holiday celebration Gratitude and Thanksgivingof Thanksgiving, I wondered what we might say about gratitude. Usually at this point in the week, I’m making sure the final pieces are in place for the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog. However, this week we’re not doing our usual chat but it would never do to just cancel everything. So, #kaizenblog community and all of my readers, please help me write this post.

With the end of the year coming up, it seemed a good time to stop and notice who or what made a difference to us this year. Who would you thank? And why? What delights you in your work, in your life? What makes you feel grateful?

Gratitude is an extraordinary emotion. It can be liberating, energizing and calming. We just don’t spend enough time noticing what is good, no, wonderful in our businesses and lives. No matter what is happening around us, there is usually something right in front of us that gives us our motivation, momentum and reasons to remain optimistic. My friend, Caroline (whose energy and support make me smile) pointed me to this post about feeling grateful for imagination, creativity and flow. How many of us notice these qualities? And yet, we are surrounded by the expression when we see innovative products or applications or even just relish how we provide something valuable to our customers. People are doing extraordinary things everywhere. Some of these things are big and change lives on a grand scale. Some of these things are small and change lives incrementally. The size of your contribution doesn’t matter. Everything counts!

For me, I’m noticing so many of the gifts I’ve received because of my business. While there is much in my personal life that I feel grateful for, it is in keeping with this blog and with #kaizenblog to keep our focus on business. If you are not familiar with this Twitter chat, I host a chat that takes the concept of “kaizen” which is the idea of continual improvement and all aspects of business to apply critical thinking, reflection and action. No matter if you participate in the #kaizenblog chat or not, take a moment with me to consider what 2010 presented to you. What do you most appreciate?

As I think of all the things that are going well in my business, it all comes back to people. There are so many people this year who have helped and inspired me. I thought for a moment of listing them but the list got very long so I’m going to have to do quite a few of those “People You Should Know” type of posts. From people who advised me while my site was re-designed to joining the Twitter chat as c0-host (and now host) to my mastermind group, the gifts of friendship, expertise and mentorship are priceless.

So, this is my feeble attempt to notice how I’ve been blessed this year.

  • My clients– These small business owners are just terrific people who are making the transition to a CEO-type role in their businesses. Their small businesses are growing in revenues and hiring people. My clients are deepening how well they manage their anxieties, communicate their expectations and aspirations as well as putting into practice all they’ve ever imagined their businesses could be. It is a privilege to coach them.
  • #kaizenblog-This Twitter chat has allowed me to engage with fascinating people on a weekly basis as well as ideas that illuminate various aspects of business. It brings me such joy when I read tweets going back and forth about a topic and none of them are directed to me. It’s thrilling to see a community forming! (Thanks, Valeria, for taking a chance on me!) Also a special thanks to Mary Ann Halford and Amber Cleveland for their help with Kaizen Act. You made our inaugural off-line conversation run so smoothly! Hats off!
  • Bloggertone-If you haven’t read a post from this site, you are missing out on valuable advice and ideas about running a small business as well as a warm community who love  a good conversation. Writing posts for this an up and coming resource is a fun and inspires me to write higher quality posts.
  • Mentors-Various people over the year have given me a wealth of wisdom about designing my site, engaging in social media and other ways I can provide additional and better service to my clients. Each conversation with people like John Reddish, Tom Gray and my mastermind group encourage me to improve and deepen how I show up as a coach and as a business owner.
  • Readers of this blog- I know you spend time reading my posts even if there are not a lot of comments. Thank you for your time, attention and feedback.

This is just the beginning of my list and perhaps I didn’t quite express everything adequately. Underpinning every one of the bullet points are people and their generosity. Who and what are on your list?

I invite all of you to share what is abundant in your life this year.

What are you grateful for?

 

 

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5 Reasons to Give Thanks for Your Small Business

What are you grateful for in your small business?

What are you grateful for in your small business?

Gratitude: def. The state of being grateful; thankfulness (Merriam-Webster.com)

 You may have noticed the huge amount of references to being thankful, giving thanks, or having an attitude of gratitude seeing how Thanksgiving is 2 days away. There are celebrations throughout the world that focus on giving thanks for the good things or blessings we have in our lives. (To learn more about the history of this holiday in America, read this)

Given the deep global recession and the slow recovery, it can seem like there is not very much to feel thankful for but there is always something.

So, here is my list of what we can give thanks for our small businesses:

1. We are still in business. There have been a lot of businesses who have closed this year. Our talent and luck have brought us this far! Nicely done!

2. We get to do something we love. We all know someone who hates their job. Everyday we are full engaged in work that we feel passionate about and it is something we have created.

3. We meet interesting people on a regular basis. Maybe some of them are interesting for the wrong reasons but there are others who inspire us, challenge us, and believe we bring great value to the table.

4. Our small businesses are a manifestation of the quality and worth of our Big Ideas. Entrepreneurs find it deeply gratifying to make ideas into everyday realities. We are shaping tomorrow’s world with the products and services we offer.

5. We get to control our destinies. A conversation with a small business owner brought this home to me today. She described how deeply satisfying it is to make your own decisions, your own mistakes, and set a course for how you want to be in the world.

What other reasons do you give thanks for your small business?

In the spirit of sharing your bounty, I invite you to check out Tweetsgiving and add what you are grateful for and/or help support the good work of Epic Change November 24-26, 2009. 

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