A friend recently shared with me a study where 200 CEOs worldwide were interviewed about leadership qualities. One of the qualities they had in common was “practicing gratitude”. This may be surprising to some people as attributes more commonly associated with CEOs include having a big vision, strategic thinking, and strong decision-making.

But what does “practicing gratitude” actually mean?

I think there are two key parts, especially for leaders.

  • Being grateful for aspects of your personal and professional life.
  • Showing gratitude to your employees.

Here are four ways to inject a little gratitude into your life and work for big results.

1. Practice gratitude daily

Journal for practicing gratitude and penNo matter how busy you are or the challenges you may be facing in your personal or professional life, you can find something for which to be grateful. Taking a time-out for gratitude each day helps you slow down, take stock of your life and think about your values. It takes just a few minutes a day, but the positive results are well worth it.

Each day, whether in the morning or at night, take time to think about three to five things for which you are grateful. You may even want to start a gratitude journal – a book to write down your thoughts. Make a point of finding new ideas each day no matter how big or small.

I have been practicing daily gratitude with my children. Every evening at home, we take turns talking about three good things that happened during our day. Even if one of us has had a bad day, we find three things for which we are grateful. With my 14-year-old, sometimes it’s hard to find three good things.  On those days, we’ve been known to agree that her lunch tasting good counts.

I enjoy hearing the creative ways my children are grateful. They have accepted the challenge of finding new things for which to be thankful and I can see it makes them think. The best part is they are greeting each day with a more positive attitude.


2. Say thank you 

Blocks spelling Thank YouWhen was the last time you said thank you to an employee or team for a job well done? Employees who feel appreciated by their managers and company leadership are happier, and more willing to go that extra mile when the situation arises.

When thanking an employee, be specific. Talk about the effort they made and how it had a positive impact. For example, “Jennifer, I want to thank you for your hard work on the presentation. I know you worked a few late nights polishing it and it really showed. The client was very happy and we won the new project. You did a great job.”

Most of all, be genuine and authentic in your appreciation; people can sense insincerity. Recognizing and valuing your employees’ hard work and efforts helps to gain their trust and respect.


3. Focus on the positive

Who How When Where Why What - questions to ask to focus on positivesMany companies and leaders expect everything to go to plan without any mistakes. Have you ever had the experience of doing 99 projects, reports, or presentations right, then one doesn’t go smoothly and that is the one leadership chooses to point out?

Focusing on the negative creates a destructive work environment. We all know that no one is perfect and in business there are unforeseeable circumstances that can arise and cause problems.

But when you focus on the positive, even in challenging situations, it helps employees work through issues in a constructive way. Taking a step back and acknowledging what is working well helps to reduce the stress, and in turn leads to more focused thinking and proactive problem-solving to resolve the issue more quickly.


4. Create a gratitude culture

Notepad saying "You Got This" - way to practice gratitude with your employeesAs your organization’s leader, you have a unique opportunity to infuse positivity into your workplace and create a culture of gratitude.

The first thing you can do is lead by example. That includes committing to the actions described above, as part of your day to day interactions with your employees, allowing them to see you actively practicing gratitude.

You can also include gratitude as part of your company’s daily mission. Tell your employees that showing gratitude to colleagues, clients and vendors is valued and encouraged. Consider training sessions to introduce the concept of gratitude, and add other topics such as positive problem resolution and how to start a gratitude journal. You could even have a weekly meeting where people can nominate others to be recognized for a job well done.

Gratitude in the workplace creates an optimistic outlook and happy employees. Showing appreciation for our employees and encouraging them to do the same with their colleagues fosters trust and collaboration, leading to improved productivity and better business results. If you’re not already doing so, try this lesser known leadership skill in your organization.

Are you a leader who practices gratitude? Share your story!