Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” —Charles Dickens
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this month, we’ve been pondering the word gratitude and our own Matt Jones had this to offer,
“I think there is a certain humility that comes with gratitude that really resonates with people.”
Maybe gratefulness and humility aren’t words commonly associated with a business blog but the more we thought about it, the more we realized how very important they are.
I think Matt’s right—I believe that it all starts with humility.
Owning a business is not something you can do completely on your own; no man or woman is an island. As an owner, you’ve got to be humble enough to be able to step aside and take the time to listen to others as well. It’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil but listen for the non-squeaky wheels, too. Some of your more quiet team members may offer the greatest ideas of all, especially if you offer a collaborative space where everyone is encouraged to contribute. This is the kind of environment that fosters creativity and teamwork; it’s where the magic happens.
An article on Business News Daily says, “Leaders who practice humility engender trust, empower their subordinates, look at failures as challenges and develop a team spirit — all of which leads to happier employees and more profits for the company. Humility may be too easily dismissed as a leadership quality because people associate it with weakness, but according to several leadership experts, humility simply means understanding your strengths and weaknesses and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of others.
I think the natural progression of humility in business is trust.
You’ve assembled a great team and taken the time necessary to ensure that they’re trained on your processes. Now it’s time to let go and trust them. Will they let you down? Probably. We’re all human and make mistakes. But sometimes (maybe most of the time?), the biggest growth occurs after stumbling. We learn to take ownership and responsibility for the faux pas, we make amends, and we move forward.
Harvard Business Review states,
“In short, trust begets trust. When people are trusted, they tend to trust in return. But people must feel trusted to reciprocate trust. Managers have to do more than trust employees; they need to show it.
The onus to grow mutual trust is on the manager. That means not only cultivating employees’ trust, but conveying prudent, incremental trust in them. Managers need to adequately scope assignments, grant resource authority, and not undermine it later. Ceding control also requires a certain tolerance for mistakes. Rather than taking harsh corrective action, treat employee mistakes as opportunities to facilitate learning.”
The Great Place to Work Institute partnered with Fortune and their research shows that “trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.”
You also might have to place your trust in others outside your immediate organization. For example, if you’re a franchise owner, you are part of a bigger picture. Your corporate office has put a team in place to help your franchise become successful. So not only do you manage a team, but you also report to a corporate office. It takes humility to trust that your corporate team has a system in place to help you succeed.
Naturally, humility and trust foster an ongoing flow of gratefulness. After all, your team is comprised of those who represent your company to others.
Your gratitude for your business and your employees trickle down to your team. When you’re happy, they’re happy. When they feel your appreciation and gratefulness, they work even harder.
Entrepreneur Simon Cohen explains his approach to cultivating a happy company,
“We were born in a world that is changing constantly, and we do need to adapt to change. So because of change, we have problems, and our role in life as leaders is to solve those problems and jump those obstacles. We can do this either with a bad mood and a provocative attitude, or with–what I consider the best option–a great smile and a huge sense of gratitude.”
To that end, here are some steps Cohen follows when communicating gratitude to his employees:
Choose Words of Gratitude
Cohen believes leaders have to be intentional when they communicate. Words can motivate or destroy a person, so be sure to use the correct, positive words each and every time you speak to your team. Always start with a compliment or a thank you, no matter how mad or disappointed you are.
Bring Them Closer
Cohen insists on valuing the time of those with whom he works, even when he is footing the bill. He explains,
“Motivated, bright people are the biggest asset of any company, and without them we can’t make it happen. So listen to your employees. Get closer, have lunch with them, and chat as much as you can. After that, show them your appreciation for spending ‘their’ time with you.”
Just saying thank you can become tired and meaningless. Cohen has his own approach.
“Every so often, do something different–just because. Bring breakfast, buy drinks or give a small speech saying something nice. Even a little gift of chocolate will say a lot. Do it from your heart, and they will feel it.”
Share Your Successes
Many leaders have an “us” and “them” mentality. Cohen has a better idea.
“Every time you have a special event, sign a good contract, or go to an occasion, do not credit yourself. Tell everyone that because of the teamwork amongst your people, their performance and their support, the company was able to close that deal.”
Say it Out Loud
“We leaders are usually extremely busy and often forget to say what we think. Say thank you every time you can, and people will start to feel different. It feels wonderful to have someone approach you, smile and say something nice. Even when people commit mistakes, tell them that they are wrong with positive words. Don’t keep those nice words on your mind… go out there and say it!”
I’m not trying to brag but I’ve got to tell you that Matt and Ginger have the gratefulness thing down. They show us their appreciation in so many ways and we are better employees for it.
My mother-in-law has a Thanksgiving tradition that used to make us roll our eyes a little bit, but over the years, I’ve come to enjoy it and now my kids get to roll their eyes at me. Full circle. We go around the table and each person says what they’re thankful for. Maybe it’s a little corny but we always enjoy hearing what everybody says and it reminds us to be grateful.
Try it at your next team meeting or around your own Thanksgiving table—there can never be too much gratefulness!