I recently listened to a podcast interview, which led me to read a few articles, and now I’m probably going to buy a book. Ever catch yourself falling down the rabbit hole? Haha. Anyway, the podcast is one of my favorites, The Accidental Creative, hosted by Todd Henry. In this episode, Todd interviewed Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick, authors of the book, Leading with Gratitude.

As a leader in an organization with “Attitude of Gratitude” as one of its Core Values, I was certain this would be a refresher course for me and not much more. We do a great job of recognizing employees and not just from the top down. We’ve had a system in place for some time for peer-to-peer recognition. Think: a dedicated desk in the office full of stationary, gift cards, and other items for employees to offer notes of appreciation to their colleagues. It has always been a hit, and I highly recommend it if you’re in house (I have an idea for virtual, but more on that later.)

However, through listening, I learned more about the fundamentals and best practices to keep your leadership style one that promotes high performance through the simple act of being kind and thankful for those you employ. Beginning by breaking down the myths that expressing gratitude makes you seem soft or unauthoritative, and building up to the methodology and practicality of giving praise that makes an impact, Elton and Gostick’s research sank in deep with me. 

From the excuse, “there’s just no time” to the atrocious mindset that “fear is the best motivator,” people find a lot of reasons to hold back on recognizing the hard work of their team. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to let them know you see them, you understand them, and you appreciate them. In this upside-down world, with the chaos, the division, the lack of facetime with each other, it’s easy for people’s accomplishments, big or small, to go unnoticed. We’ve become used to seeing people on Zoom or checking in via text; we almost forget that on the other side of the technology is a human with feelings and a need to been seen. If not, there’s a high risk for disengagement, lower productivity, and turnover. 

One of Elton and Gostick’s key points that stuck out to me was “Assume Positive Intent.” Say your employee finishes a project and brings it to you for review. It’s not at ALL what you had in mind, and not in a good way… chances are, this employee wasn’t *trying* to do something awful; mistakes happen. If you set your mind to approach the problem thinking the employee is trying to do a good job, your feedback will help fuel a healthy conversation instead of making the employee feel like a failure. People are *usually* trying to impress the boss, so know that going into a constructive criticism session. Maybe the instructions weren’t clear, or maybe this type of project just isn’t that employee’s forte…

Another one I loved is to “Take it Home.” Practice gratitude and freely giving compliments and thanks to those around you outside of work. Did your husband load the dishwasher (albeit not the way you would’ve…)? Thank him for it! Did your wife do laundry at 11pm so you had your lucky socks for the big meeting? Let her know that you saw it and you appreciate it! Did your kid bring home a good grade? Let them know you’re proud of their hard work and glad they’re your kid. Practice makes perfect, so try it often!

Other great tips regarding gratitude were: “Look for Small Wins,” “Give it Now and Give it Often,” and “Make it Peer-to-Peer.” You’re the leader, and it starts with you. You have to set the tone. You need to be grateful for your fantastic team. You need to show praise and give thanks often; privately, publicly, and any other way you can. Then build an avenue for your team to do the same. Let them know it’s not only nice to recognize each other, but encouraged.

My idea for my remote team is to offer a small but meaningful Gratitude Budget to each employee. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to walk into the office and see a little envelope on my desk. I knew I had been of use to somebody. That gave me a boost of confidence and pride and motivated my work for the day. Since we’re not all together in the office anymore, we can’t truly utilize the stationary desk. Instead, I suggest we allow employees to expense an e-gift card for a member of their Thread Fam from time to time as a way to bring that peer-to-peer recognition back. It’s a small gesture that means a lot to both parties, and it builds a culture of happiness. And we know that a happy company is a high-performing company.