Sep 17

Showing Gratitude

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Last week, I participated in a “Corporate Strategy Retreat –Workshop” of the B. Grimm Group of Companies. About 25 senior managers from various companies of the business group were present. Harald Link, the CEO, opened the meeting with an introduction of each and every participant to the audience. He described briefly everyone’s major contribution to the company, showing appreciation and gratitude to every person present. What a great start for the workshop this was. He created plenty of positive emotions which lasted throughout the workshop. It demonstrates that leading from a place of gratitude is a powerful place from which to lead. Effective leaders will look for the positive and show genuine gratitude and appreciation for it.

As a company, it is worthwhile to build a culture of gratitude. At Merck Thailand, we appreciated and showed care and gratitude for our employees. “Satisfied employees” were part of our mission and vision statement and got our utmost attention. Apart from having a positive and energetic company culture and work atmosphere, a state of the art “motivating” office with employee care sphere – zones, lots of learning and growth opportunities, we did another rather unusual thing. After particularly successful business years, the company showed its appreciation and gratitude and took all its staff (about 150 people),  across all hierarchical levels, from the Directors to the warehouse workers, to four days – trips abroad. Over the years, we visited places like Australia, Japan, Korea and Hongkong. Since all of the employees were taken along, not like typically in other companies only the sales team, a great sense of oneness and outstanding team spirit were achieved. Despite the rather high costs on employee welfare, our company did financially very well. I personally prefer to say, because of the gratitude that we have shown towards our employees, we have been so successful.

Although gratitude might seem like a soft subject to you, it, indeed, can deliver hard results.

Let’s move from the organizational to the individual perspective. Sonja Lyubomirski, a professor of psychology and researcher at the University of California, and author of the book “The How of Happiness” states that “the expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness.” And isn’t it happiness that we are all after?

Lyubomirski writes that our happiness level is 50% heredity. Only 10% of our happiness is attributable to circumstances (e.g. where we live or how much we make beyond a basic needs level). The remaining 40% is under our control. Lyubomirski recommends to show more gratefulness by becoming more mindful and expressing our gratitude more often.

Studies consistently show that those who take the time to express gratitude for their life are more likely to enjoy a satisfying life than those who are always focusing on what’s missing.

The first time I took a deeper interest in the subject “Positive Psychology” was a few years ago when I attended a highly interesting  executive seminar at the University of Michigan on “positive leadership”. One of their recommendations was to keep a daily gratitude journal and to list three things for which I was grateful on that day. I did that for a few weeks; then I stopped writing it down daily. I had already become much more mindful and I had learned to appreciate the good things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile. It has become a habit, and nowadays, I do this silently in my mind.

Research shows that people keeping a daily gratitude journal enjoyed higher levels of emotional and physical well-being. Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the worldwide bestseller and one of my all time favourite books “Happier” (I highly recommend you to read it) has just published this month the book “Even Happier – A Gratitude Journal for Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” demonstrating the importance of the subject. He states that “happiness, not money or prestige, should be regarded as the ultimate currency – the currency by which we take the measure of our lives.”

Kim Cameron, a professor  of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan and my executive seminar leader, states in his book “Positive Leadership – Strategies for Extraordinary Performance” “that the single most important factor in predicting organizational performance was the ratio of positive statements (supportive, encouraging, appreciation) to negative statements (emotional, disapproval, contradictory). Research revealed that in high performing organizations, the ratio of positive to negative statements in their top management teams  was 5.6 to 1. Five times more positive statements were made than negative statements as high performing teams engaged in work.” Again, you can see the potential high impact that you can have when showing more often appreciation and gratitude.

To conclude:

If you as an individual want to be happy, be grateful. Be aware of the powerful role of gratitude in increasing happiness in yourself, your family, your friends and your workplace. To uplift your own spirits, take the time everyday (it will take you only a few minutes) to identify what you are grateful for. Remember: those who are the most grateful for whatever is in their lives seem to be the most happy and are experiencing more positive emotions.

If you want to be a successful, respected and trusted leader, be grateful to your people. Show your appreciation and gratitude to them for who they are and what they do. It makes leadership more fulfilling. Make it a habit to show an attitude of gratitude! Truly recognize that you owe your position and your success to your people.

For me, the concept of gratitude has worked well over the years in my private life as well as in my professional life, since I became aware of how powerful it is. Nevertheless, I know that I want to and have to improve further.

Finally, let me state that I am grateful to you that you read our blog “TheCareGuys” and that you take interest in my blog contribution.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009 at 10:07 and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. David Pilarek says:

    Dear Mr. landau,
    I like the idea of the “gratitude diary” you mentioned. That somehow reminds me of the kind of praying, I was taught as a little kid. Even though I first understood it as being a cumbersome duty, I later realized, that it helped reflect on the day. Unfortunately, I stopped that exercise while growing up.
    What’s worse – I think many people more or less keep an “negative diary”. We think about the day and pick out those things, that went wrong. That prevents us from valuing the day comprehensively and from realizing all the little successes.
    I will take your entry as a trigger to return to the exercise of remembering the reasons for being grateful for every day. Thanks for the inspriration!