This week’s tip: Develop your gratitude muscle.
This is a short week. How about taking a few minutes in your SAM Daily Meeting to explore what you are grateful for in your professional work?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. This quality is in you.. .but, like a muscle, it has to be developed day by day and conversation by conversation.
This quality, being thankful, is a powerful leadership tool. Henna Inman, author of Wired for Authenticity, explains the benefits of gratitude at work:
Three Benefits of Gratitude at Work
1) Gratitude generates positive energy - When we look upon any situation and focus on what’s working rather than what’s not working, research shows we feel happier, more optimistic, more energized, more empathetic. Studies also show its great effects on our overall health and wellbeing. This energy helps us meet goals, face challenges, be resilient, and inspire others.
2) Gratitude helps us set the right vision & priorities - As we look at challenging business situations or even our unending to-do lists, we can easily get overwhelmed if we focus on just what’s not working or what remains to be done. Fear and anxiety can set in. This prevents us from thinking clearly. Gratitude is the antidote to fear and anxiety. By focusing on “what’s working” we can create a vision for the business or ourselves that is grounded in “strengths”
What’s creating the success we have achieved. Starting with an understanding of what’s working is a strong foundation upon which to grow and change.
3) Gratitude builds engagement and results - When we focus on and express what’s good in others, it builds our connection to them. Others feel valued for their work and cared about as individuals. Latest research on employee engagement indicates “being valued” is a key driver of sustainable engagement. According to Tony Schwartz in this HBR blog, “no single behavior more viscerally and reliably influences the quality of people’s energy than feeling valued and appreciated by their supervisor”. According to the latest studies companies high in sustainable engagement have a 27% operating margin compared to 10% for companies at low engagement levels.
So, what can you do as a SAM team to develop gratitude habits?
1. Start your SAM Daily Meeting with a celebration of your own work.
2. Identify a student, staff member or parent you observerd yesterday doing something you liked, admired or appreciated. Schedule a celebratory feedback conversation. Do this with an instructional focus. Then, do it on the management side.
3. Use your TimeTrack public notes, at the bottom of each day, as a journal of things/people you are grateful for each day.
4. Identify what is working in a classroom or meeting before looking for what is not.
5. Identify something you appreciate about your immediate supervisor and share it. People do more of what they see as valued and appreciated by others.
In business, leaders like to use the term Return on Investment, ROI. What is the ROI on gratitude? Take a look at the article, below.
How Feeling Grateful Can Make You More Successful
Erika Andersen , Forbes Magazine
I find it fascinating that we have, here in America, a designated day to be thankful. It implies that on every other day it’s normal to be apathetic, dissatisfied, and disappointed. And many people seem to think it’s somehow gauche or naive to be too grateful: I actually overheard a 20- something guy on the subway today say, “I don’t know what there is to be thankful for, given this insane world.” That sentiment is not uncommon.
There’s quite a bit of research, though, to support the idea that experiencing gratitude can positively impact both your mental/emotional state and your ability to achieve the life you want.
Let’s define our terms. Gratitude is simply “the quality of being thankful.” To get in touch with what this feels like, remember the last time you narrowly avoided a bad consequence: braked just in time to avoid a car accident; got an “all clear” on an important medical test; caught yourself before taking a very bad fall. You feel a wash of adrenaline, and then a heartfelt Thank god (even if you’re not religious). You have an immediate, crystal clear sense of how fortunate you are - not to have crashed your car, not to have a disease, not to have broken your neck. All at once, you appreciate being alive and whole as the gift that it is, a fragile and wonderful state of affairs, something for which you are profoundly grateful.
When you’re in a situation like that, you realize that ordinary life is more than worthy of your full appreciation and thankfulness. You know, suddenly, that all the things you usually think are necessary in order for you to feel fulfilled and satisfied (wealth, power, true love, more stuff, world peace) are truly icing on the cake. That would all be great, but - oh my god: I’m alive.
Avoiding a real threat to life or limb makes you realize that feeling grateful is not actually dependent upon having achieved certain things. Again, this is supported by research. Gratitude is closely related to happiness (people who feel gratitude on a regular basis self-report being happier), and many studies show, for instance, that happiness is not dependent on income, social position, or age. Researchers have found that some people simply approach their lives with an attitude of thankfulness — and some people rarely feel thankful at all, no matter how wealthy, powerful, beautiful, or healthy they may be.
There was a great little article on Inc.com a couple of years ago by Goeffrey James about the power of gratitude. He talks about gratitude as “an emotional muscle,” one that can (and should) be used and strengthened. He notes, and I completely agree:
People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life. Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success. And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.
I would add that people who are grateful not only seek out more successes, they draw successes into their lives. When you are grateful, others like to be around you. Your appreciation includes and supports them. You help them see the positive elements inherent in daily life, and to feel more hopeful about the possibility of future success.
For example: Customers (and potential customers) love to feel that you are grateful for their business; it creates strong bonds of loyalty and mutual support. Employees are more committed and productive when they know that you are thankful to have them on your team.
Great resources and partners of all sorts are attracted to you when they feel appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the party. Your relationships with family and friends are more likely to be loving and supportive when you express your gratitude for all that they bring to your life.
And gratitude feels wonderful, too. It’s like a warm emotional light, shining within you to banish greed, bitterness, selfishness, jealousy, envy, meanness - all the most limiting and corrosive emotions.
So, how do you get more grateful?
As Geoffrey James suggests, it’s helpful to think of gratitude as an emotional muscle that will grow and strengthen with intentional use. We’ve all see those little magazine articles that tell you how to “Build Great Abs at Your Desk in Just 5 Minutes a Day.” I don’t know whether it works for abs, but it definitely works for gratitude.
I suggest you make two little cards (you can just cut an index card in half, or use the back of your business card) both of which say, “I’m glad...” or “I’m thankful...” Put one on your desk, so you see it when you’re at work, and the other somewhere at home where you’re most likely to see it often (on the corner of the TV, propped against the lamp on your nightstand, on the frig).
Whenever you notice one of the cards, complete the sentence starter in a way that’s true for you at that moment. So: “I’m glad.. .the presentation went well this morning,” or “I’m thankful.. .for my husband’s support.” “I’m glad.. .they decided to do something about the food in the cafeteria,” or “I’m thankful that my daughter got a job she likes.” It can be a big thing or a small thing, personal, professional, or global. As you do this, and begin to cultivate the experience of gratitude, I suspect you will notice all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle positive changes: in how others relate to you, in how you feel about your life, in how you weather difficulties. You may even see changes in your health, or in your closest relationships.
And you may notice, over time, a real change in the whole trajectory of your life. You may find that your efforts to create the career you want and to have a satisfying life are increasingly successful. You’ll begin to have a practical experience of the positive impact of approaching your life with a focus on gratitude. Which will give you even more to be grateful about.
One of the marvelous things about gratitude - it has no upper limit, as far as I can tell. You can be as grateful as you want to be. And what better time to start than this week?