While on a cruise to Mexico a few years ago, I read a spiritual book called One Thousand Gifts. First chapter in, my list of the 1000 things had begun. It was uncanny how just being observant to what is and being thankful for small things (such as having someone else make my bed, the smell of suntan lotion, the white foam on a wave) changed my perspective on things. As I continued to read the book, I kept adding to my list hourly — intentionally looking for things I may not have previously seen as “gifts.” It took me three full days to finish my list and in that short time…
It Transformed Me
You may argue the fact that I was on vacation or maybe it was the sunshine and the margaritas. I thought the same thing, so I started the list again when I got home. I ended that year with over 500 more!
There is something about having a number as a goal that makes it a transforming game. The discipline of making yourself keep track encourages you to look throughout your day for little gifts that scream gratitude! My list includes everything from my mom’s voice and the steam from my morning tea to the breakdown of the car and the disappointment of a cancelled trip. Even the hard and stressful things you experience take on new meaning when you look at them with new eyes.
Why Leaders Struggle
People rarely leave jobs where they are appreciated. When there is a genuine appreciation of a person’s talents and contributions, there is low turn over, better outcomes and greater efficiency. Leaders primarily struggle with gratitude because they have already moved on to the next challenge. Their mind is moving the ball down the field to the goal line. Thus, they forget to vocalize their appreciation or recognize what good is happening all around them, because they are already down the road to the next fire.
Consider the firefighters who put out a huge fire. As they are dealing with the last of the hot embers and beginning to clean up, suddenly another fire breaks out across town. Leaving a clean-up crew behind to finish the job, they race across town and save a child just in the nick of time. Of course, they are held up by all the media attention and reporters; thus they return to the firehouse pumped up on adrenaline ready for more. What are the chances they go back to the clean-up crew and thank them for what a great job they did? It’s not that they are not grateful, they just got busy doing another life threatening feat.
What We Want From Our Leader
We want our leader to be out in front taking on challenges, putting out fires, and fixing what’s not going right. That is their strength and unique ability.
AND we also want them to take a few moments to reflect on what has been successful thus far, vocalize their gratitude for the diversity of talent and contribution of their team, and celebrate progress being made along the way.
It is usually not a natural thing for a leader (although wonderful when it is) to be intentional about vocalizing their praise and appreciation. Yet, it is transforming when they do. It transforms them as a leader and it absolutely transforms the people and the culture. Let’s be honest: it will only happen if there is intentionality. If you want it to work, it requires a measurable goal to track to with a meaningful return.
Consistently focusing on gratitude forces you to change your perspective and look for things that you would usually pass over.
What are YOU grateful for this Thanksgiving?