Obtaining success with gratitude: a simple practice to make work more meaningful and purposeful

Whether you are starting your career, working through conflict, striving to reinvigorate your team, looking for inspiration, or providing client support, the one surprising strategy for obtaining success is gratitude, says Kerry Wekelo

Gratitude is always the answer. At Actualize Consulting, where I serve as Chief Operating Officer, we make gratitude a daily practice. This simple practice quickly made our company a more purposeful and more meaningful place to work.

So how does gratitude translate to business?

The gratitude ripple effect is powerful. Creating a thriving culture of gratitude positively impacts everyone who touches that culture – individuals, teams, managers, and – ultimately – clients.

Gratitude allows our teams to bond and work together from a place of positivity. By having a standardised method of communication that incorporates gratitude, we save time and minimise conflict. Our people experience less stress when they practice gratitude, which, in turn, results in better health. And managers that lead from a place of gratitude are more fulfilled.

Practicing and communicating gratitude

To truly feel the benefits of gratitude, we must first practice and communicate gratitude by cultivating an attitude of positivity and appreciation daily. As we feel the impact of gratitude shifting our perspective and allowing us to flow gracefully through challenges, we can then more readily share positivity and appreciation with our teams at work. Expressing gratitude also doesn’t need to be a grand gesture; it can be as simple as telling someone that they did a job well.

Using skills like empathy, gratitude, resilience, mindfulness, and authentic listening are essential communication traits. We work with the following best practices for active listening communication to improve efficiency and collaboration.

Listening

  • Mindfulness: allow the other person to express themselves fully before offering your opinions and do so only if they ask.
  • Practice empathy: put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective.
  • Focus attention: listen fully and limit distractions like phones.
  • Show listening: provide subtle responses, such as ‘yes’ or ‘I understand.’
  • Suspend judgment: resist making assumptions.

Understanding

  • Gratitude: express gratitude with a compliment or something you are thankful for.
  • Be responsive: provide direct responses like ‘tell me more…’
  • Ask questions: ask questions to gather details.
  • Verify understanding: summarise what you heard to verify understanding.
  • Be open: be open to what the other has to say.

Handling challenges with gratitude

In life, there are few things we know for certain. One of those is that we will face challenges and roadblocks – both literally and figuratively – as we navigate our daily life. How we navigate those challenges can make us stronger and more resilient.

At Actualize Consulting, we meet challenges by bringing vulnerability, gratitude, and conflict resolution all together by using the 3P method of Pausing to Pivot to a Positive. First, we practice pausing to allow all feelings, especially gratitude. Reflect on everything good in the moment to set the tone for how you can begin to problem solve. Then we pivot out of feeling angry, negative, or blaming others.

Last, we explore positive possibilities and outcomes for the situation.

This is how I apply the exercise. First, I talk to each person separately to get their side of the story. Second, I ask them if they would be willing to walk through an exercise with each person involved on the phone or in person, depending on geographic locations. I explain that I will guide them through four questions:

  1. What are you grateful for about the person and this experience?
  2. What have you contributed to the situation, and what would you have changed about your approach?
  3. How did the situation make you feel?
  4. How would you like to move forward in a positive light, and what will you commit to going forward?
  5. Employing gratitude as a tactic immediately lightens the mood of any tense situation and clears a path for problem solving and understanding.

Awarding with gratitude

Do you remember the last time you felt truly appreciated? You might think we don’t need to hear words of appreciation, but psychologist and physician William James says: ‘The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.’

As a company, we strive to create a home for our employees so that they feel they belong and are appreciated. A simple thank you can go a long way. And putting extra effort into a creative show of gratitude can be even more meaningful. Below are some creative ways to show your appreciation for your team members to give them a sense of belonging and recognition, so they will desire to be their best.

Some of our strategies include peer-nominated awards recognising ‘Star and Key Players’ for their exceptional performance; semi-monthly newsletters recognising employee kudos from clients, promotions, and life events; and weekly email chains sharing internal gratitude (gratitude of the self), external gratitude (gratitude to others), and wins (achievements or milestones). We announce the good news to our firm via newsletters, email blasts, and company meetings. The more gratitude you share, the more your team members will share in return. 

Giving back

Giving back is one of the foundational principles of our corporate culture, starting with ourselves and our employees, then spreading out to our clients. We like to go out of our way to show gratitude to our clients. Instead of waiting for the holidays to show appreciation, we like to do so year-round.

Our internal team sends company swag and personalised thank you notes when clients are not expecting them. It doesn’t stop there, though. We believe in also sharing our success by giving back in ways that are truly helpful to our local community. We have infused a culture of hands-on giving with opportunities for our team to give back.

How to start a giving back programme:

  • Survey your people to find out what types of organisations or specific organisations they would like to see your firm supporting.
  • Connect with organisations to see if there is a way you can best support their needs.
  • Align your fundraising or time donations with a team challenge.
  • Share the results and announce the winning team on social media and in newsletters.

Employing gratitude through uncertain times

Some managers and leaders have difficulty communicating with their team because they have not been given the tools or protocols on how to communicate ­– especially during uncertain times. Leadership must set the tone and start with transparent and frequent communication.

To address the uncertainty that swirled around the pandemic and how it would affect our people, we immediately did the following:

  • Sent out a company-wide email with updates.
  • Increased our monthly newsletters to semi-monthly and created a resource page.
  • Called every employee to check in on them professionally and personally.
  • Scheduled mindfulness breaks.
  • Reminded everyone of our open-door policy.
  • Became radically transparent about the status and future of the company.
  • Encouraged giving back and gratitude.
  • Created space for humor with groups dedicated to sharing jokes and funny stories.

When we canceled our annual retreat due to the pandemic, we knew that we still needed to celebrate our people. We shifted gears and instead made gratitude videos to highlight what we appreciate about every one of our employees. You can see the videos we created here.

Showing appreciation and gratitude motivates our people and keeps them engaged. By infusing gratitude throughout all levels of your life and organisation you and your people with thrive. My practice of gratitude has changed my life, my relationships, my leadership style, and my perspective.

For more information on how to incorporate gratitude into your life visit https://www.actualizeconsulting.com/gratitude-infusion.html

Kerry Wekelo is the Chief Operating Officer at Actualize Consulting, a financial services firm. Her book and programme, Culture Infusion: 9 Principles for Creating and Maintaining a Thriving Organizational Culture and latest book Gratitude Infusion, are the impetus behind Actualize Consulting being named Top Company Culture by Entrepreneur Magazine, a Top Workplace by The Washington Post, Great Place to Work-Certified, and Best and Brightest ELITE National Winner in Communication and Shared Vision category.

In her leadership, Kerry blends her experiences as a consultant, executive coach, award-winning author, mindfulness expert, and entrepreneur. Kerry has been featured on ABC, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, Thrive Global, SHRM, Inc., and Forbes.

Connect with Kerry on LinkedIn.

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