During this season of Thanksgiving (and I'll spare you the rant about how stores have had Christmas stuff out since before Hallowe'en) I think it's important to pause and, if necessary, reset one's intention.
I intend to be a grateful person. But that intention often yields to my impatience. Self-inflicted time pressures, irritating people, poor customer service, avoidable mistakes and over commercialized holidays steal my joy and gratitude. So I pause and remember that I am thankful that time pressures come from leading a full and fulfilling life. That irritating people can be viewed as the sandpaper of life, softening my sharp edges. That poor customer service can stem from a horrible situation at home or an issue at work that is causing the service agent angst. That people don't make mistakes on purpose, and may just be ignorant. That I believe in free markets and if people want to buy a blow-up Santa Claus before the pumpkins are harvested, they are welcome to do so.
I've recently read Dr. Cloud's book, pictured here. It's a terrific reminder that our gratitude -- or lack thereof -- has a powerful effect on others' around us. He addresses other dynamics and behaviors, too, but my focus today is on intentional gratitude.
As a manager, do you express your gratitude, or do you tend to critique and correct? There's room for both kinds of feedback. I recently visited a former student who now owns his own business, a sizable enterprise. He is humble and appreciative and as a result, has a strong and stable management team devoted to advancing the business. On the other hand, I'm a client at another enterprise that has experienced remarkable staff turnover in the two years I have been a patron. Why? The owner is never satisfied and it's disheartening and sometimes demoralizing to her employees. Turnover is expensive, when you factor in the costs of the search process, training, and learning curve.
As with many management concepts, what is true of business dealings applies to one's personal life. Who do we criticize the most? The people near and dear to our hearts. Does that improve your relationships? I doubt it. (One of the most useful books on the personal front is Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages.)
In the work arena there are different ways to express gratitude. Some people want words of affirmation; others are embarrassed by them (avoid being overly effusive; that seems insincere). Public praise might be appropriate; in other situations in might be enough to send a personal note. A token gift card for a donut and coffee may do the trick. A celebratory lunch after a tough project could be the right signal of your gratitude. Just sitting down for a conversation (being fully present) may make someone feel valued.
So is the message you communicate full of "Grrr," or does it show "gratitude?" Be intentional.
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