85% of people around the world are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. (Gallup December, 2017). The result is a $7 trillion loss in productivity worldwide. Sadly, this trend has been holding steady for more than 20 years.
It seems that everything in the world economy has changed except how leaders continue to miss the opportunity to engage people.
Gratitude: Could this possibly make a difference?
What we desire and need as human beings in order to be engaged at work is to be respected, offered the opportunity to learn and grow and to be thanked for our contributions. Consider this:
- Over 6 million people have watched Brother David Stendl Rast’s TED Talk on Gratitude.
- 20,654,524 candles of gratitude have been lit from 194 countries through Brother David’s organization called A Network For Grateful Living.
- The brightest minds in science, literature, medicine and the arts all express a deep understanding of the mystery, wonder and necessity of bringing our hearts and thankfulness to our every endeavor in order to unlock the fullness of human potential.
Indeed, we hunger for gratitude and we intuitively know that in a workplace where it is practiced, a more civilized, creative and thriving world will prevail. And yet, the research tells us that leaders worldwide are ignoring this inner wisdom and failing to engage the hearts and full commitment of their teams.
Curiosity, creativity and innovation are all human experiences that come from the integration of heart and mind. In organization life, we often forget this and we work only from the neck up, with our minds. Over-investing in rational thought and intellect is a great folly for leaders and is an epidemic in global leadership as we see from this multi-decade pattern of dismal engagement numbers. It is an approach to leadership where the primary mode of operation is believing that the mind provides the only road to solutions and results. It is an over-emphasis on tasks with not enough focus on people and expressing appreciation to those people through which all things happen.
When we do this, we leave behind our potential genius and our ability to unlock the genius of others. The result of which is a lack of engagement and, subsequently, results that are a fraction of what they could be.
Another Program Is Not The Answer
Gratefulness is a powerful tool for building extraordinary and engaged teams. We don’t need another program to raise engagement. We need to coach leaders to lead with gratitude and reward them for doing so.
To be grateful leaders means we are paying attention to our people and to what is happening right now and to the opportunity in every moment. We are comfortable with ambiguity and, therefore, we are allowing ourselves to be surprised by ideas, people and situations. We are listening and responding. We are focused on others, not on ourselves. We are operating with complete faith that in doing so, the results will come, and they do.
Grateful Leadership Behaviors
When we demonstrate grateful leadership we:
- Ask questions that help people learn to find answers as opposed to giving them the answers.
- We operate from a place of curiosity, not judgement.
- We act as catalysts and coaches to unlock potential, not as commanders and controllers to drive the execution of our own ideas.
- We see ambiguity as the opportunity for innovation and for developing our confidence and that of our teams in finding the best solutions in previously unchartered waters.
- We never stop looking for the potential within people and every day do our best to unlock it one person at a time.
- We lead with reverence which exhibits itself as showing deep respect for others.
- We regularly thank people for their efforts.
Daily Practices To Develop Grateful Leadership Skill
Leading with gratitude is not difficult but it requires practice in order to bring the necessary balance to the dynamic between mind and heart. Here are some ways to develop your ability to lead with gratefulness:
- Start every day being thankful that you are alive.
- Practice paying attention to each moment and each person.
- Every day express appreciation to your team.
- Slow down, look around. Let the wonders of the world, be it nature, science, literature or art penetrate your heart.
- At the end of each day write down one thing that you have done as a leader to leave the day better than it was when you entered it.
- Subscribe to a gratitude website like A Network For Grateful Living and get daily messages that remind and inspire you.
If you want to work with these practices, try rating yourself on a scale of 1-5 (1=I don’t do this and 5= I consistently do this) on each of the 7 grateful leadership behaviors listed above. Set goals and action plans to improve. Utilize at least one of the daily practices suggested and then rescore yourself in 30, 60 and 90 days. Take note of how your practices help increase the engagement of your team and, wonderfully, your own happiness as a leader.
Sheila Madden works as an executive coaching supporting leaders in technology, healthcare, non-profits and higher education.
Copyright 2018 Sheila Madden, Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved.