I chatted with Leah Weiss, a Leadership Consultant with her Master’s in Positive Organizational Development and Change to get her take on gratitude in the workplace/organizational setting.
Are people feeling appreciated and grateful at work?
“Definitely not: That’s a big reason why I wanted to go into this field. Work doesn’t have to suck, right? But it does for many. I’ve heard people using the term corporate captivity recently… so, no I don’t think people are feeling super engaged, appreciated, or grateful. But there IS the possibility for that change.”
So how can we cultivate more gratitude and appreciation?
There must be buy-in from the full organization. Which is where Leah’s work comes in. But I believe that some of the ideas and tools we spoke about can support each of us to do our part in this process.
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from our chat:
There is a proven link between gratitude and well-being, and fostering these positive feelings can unlock greater creativity, innovation and problem solving to create highly effective teams.
Ratio of positive to negative statements. I’ve heard a few different numbers on this, but Leah and I spoke about a six to one ratio: six positive statements to one negative emotional tone statement. Yes, we need to be grounded in reality, but learning to acknowledge, celebrate and focus on what is working and going well can help individuals feel more appreciated and help them be more productive and creative.
Gratitude can help us access the parasympathetic nervous system and enhance leadership capabilities and organizational success. It’s difficult to optimize relationships, creativity or results if everyone is running around in the fight/flight/freeze modes associated with the body’s stress response and our sympathetic nervous system.
Appreciative Inquiry: If leadership is on board, Leah loves the grassroot movement called appreciative inquiry to unlock collective wisdom and harness the power of everyone’s minds to help establish a new reality. This often starts with leaders connecting with their own life visions and values and making sure those are in alignment with the organization. Leah shared some fun exercises and activities on what’s possible with this great strengths-based, positive approach to leadership development and organizational change.
Meet people where they are first: As much as she wants to jump in immediately with all the tools to cultivate positivity and gratitude, Leah learned quickly that this doesn’t work if you’re not meeting people where they’re at. “If there are low levels of engagement, you have to hear and acknowledge that, allowing people to feel seen and heard first.” We also chatted about how this could apply in personal/family/relationship settings as well, given that we all want to feel seen and heard!
The Power of Vulnerability (Love that book by Brene Brown!) A different model is vulnerability-based trust, which, according to Patrick Lencioni, is “a place where leaders comfortably and quickly acknowledge, without provocation, their mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and need for help. These leaders also recognize (and appreciate!) the strengths of others, even when those strengths exceed their own.” Leah agrees that creating this culture starts with leadership modeling vulnerability, such as being able to admit a mistake and thank someone for their help with it.
Other favorite takeaways as we spoke about mindfulness and gratitude and how/why we can share gratitude more:
Gratitude can be developed. “I do think that people can develop gratitude, just like they can develop their leadership skills and yes, creating habits can help.”
Mindfulness. “One of the papers I wrote was about what we need from leaders today, which discussed mindfulness and the importance of the individual knowing where they’re at and where they want to go. When I was learning about creating this ideal vision for the future, I liked the quote: you’re much more likely to hit a target that you aim at.” Gratitude/appreciation/hope/etc. is a big part of the visioning process.”
Finding gratitude for vulnerability. “I do feel very able to share my gratitude with people. My friendships have such a deep level of trust. To share your heart with someone and to share your gratitude for who they are and what they mean to you can be vulnerable. So just building that trust over time is a big aspect of it. I think another part of that is self-compassion, which is a big part of the positive psychology world. Even if people aren’t responding as expected, can you give yourself that love to show up in the way that you want to show up and be grateful for the people around you.”
Gratitude as a mood boosting tool. “Gratitude is a tool that I am aware of. If I’m feeling down, I often use Martin Seligman’s “what went well and why” inquiry/exercise to practice gratitude. And even for today and this conversation, I’ve been having a harder day, and I appreciate this conversation and just being reminded about how much shifting to gratitude can positively affect our lives.”
Leah, thank you for the work you do and the impact you make!
What are you grateful for today?
Take a couple minutes out of your day to create/reinforce the habit of gratitude. Even and especially if it's a hard day. Where can you notice something beautiful or meaningful? Who can you thank? What might be a lesson or blessing in disguise? Take a deep breath. Become present and choose gratitude. ♥