Whatever your leadership responsibility is – whether your are a parent, coach, pastor, scoutmaster, business leader or any other type of leader – you need to say two words often and genuinely. They are the words “thank you.” Unfortunately many leaders don’t say it enough.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton
When is the last time in your leadership role you felt deeply grateful? I love the following story I heard recently that was told many years ago in a newspaper.
The District of Columbia police auctioned off about 100 unclaimed bicycles Friday. “One dollar,” said an 11-year-old boy as the bidding opened on the first bike. The bidding, however, went much higher. “One dollar,” the boy repeated hopefully each time another bike came up.
The auctioneer, who had been auctioning stolen or lost bikes for 43 years, noticed that the boy’s hopes seemed to soar higher whenever a racer-type bicycle was put up.
Then there was just one racer left. The bidding went to eight dollars. “Sold to that boy over there for nine dollars!” said the auctioneer. He took eight dollars from his own pocket and asked the boy for his dollar. The youngster turned it over in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters—took his bike, and started to leave. But he went only a few feet. Carefully parking his new possession, he went back, gratefully threw his arms around the auctioneer’s neck, and cried.
Those things others do for you as a leader may not fill you with such deep thankfulness, but should they? Gratitude is an attitude that is exercised and massaged by daily humble reflection. How many of us who lead others are reflecting regularly and perhaps daily on what others have done for us? If we did, we might feel more like this young boy with those we lead.
One way to reflect daily is to start a gratitude journal. Simply take time each day – many do it in the evenings before bed – write down those things you are grateful for. But it is important to really reflect and feel, not just simply provide the same entries each night.
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” ~G.B. Stern
When expressing your gratitude with the words “thank you,” be timely, specific and genuine.
Waiting too long to say thank you could result in those you lead having harsh feelings. People like to be recognized in the moment, not as an after thought. Remembering to say thank you is just as important as expressing it. You can’t say it unless you think it, and if you think it, you better say it, and the sooner you say it the better.
Thank you is great, but why you are thankful is multiplied by eight! Okay, maybe a little corny, but you get the point. Don’t just say thank you, but explain why. For example, “Jim, thank you for helping us get that done a day before the deadline last night and staying here so late. By getting that done the day before, you helped us dramatically increase our odds of winning the bid!”
Think about the last time someone was genuinely grateful for something you did? How did it make you feel? How did you know they were genuine? If you don’t feel it, then don’t reveal it. Gratefulness has to come from the heart and your body language and face should reflect it.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne, from Winnie-the-Pooh
Did you know there are real tangible personal benefits to gratitude besides just feeling good and blessing others? Developing an attitude of gratitude as a leader will improve your health, relationships and productivity.
Research shows our health is better when we are more thankful. Our immune system is stronger, we are bothered less by aches and pains, we sleep longer and have higher levels in general of positive emotions.
Relationships are better because we are happier when we are grateful. And people prefer to be around happy people.
And those who are more grateful are more productive due to their greater passion and commitment levels. People are more inspired and productive as well when they know leaders are thankful.
Leaders, now is the time to reflect, express and reap the benefits of gratitude!
“Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.” ~Brian Tracy
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