Gratitude: in addition to checking in and keeping in touch with each other, we can also contribute to each other's morale and work wellness by taking time to show genuine appreciation and gratitude for the work of our teams and colleagues. This advice isn't just for leaders - we all contribute to our work relationships and enhance them by showing genuine gratitude through recognition and appreciation.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered at a recent all-staff meeting. It is a follow-up on some of my regular emails to all-staff, as well as some recent feedback I’d received from people about how they’re feeling these days. Basically, people expressed feeling unappreciated, unrecognized and unnoticed, with the consequence being feelings of being un- or under-motivated. Most of this feedback was second- and third-hand, so it wasn’t possible for me to address anyone specifically or individually. I decided to try a broadcast approach at the meeting, with the hope that those who were needing to hear this message did receive it.
Topics I touch on regularly in my all-staff emails, which go out 2-3 times a week, are about staying connected, supporting each other, recognizing and appreciating the work of others, and the importance of genuine gratitude – both giving and receiving it. While these things are always important, if not essential, for a good and strong team, they have been made so much harder in these days of remote work, distancing, and restrictions. The disruption, fear, anxiety, hardships, difficulties, separation, isolation, changes, disappointments, and losses – over the past year and ahead of us, too – get in the way of being able to see, express, and enjoy accomplishments and the positive work we do every day. Even when they are the very things we need to combat and overcome our negative feelings, those positive and encouraging moments and words can seem hard to come by.
If you’ve taken any management and leadership training with me or read my blog posts on leading when you’re not the boss and leading through change, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer that everyone in a team has the opportunity to be a leader. Even if we don’t have “leader” in our job description or title, we can each lead others by example, incorporating good leadership skills into our day-to-day work. These “skills” include honesty, self-awareness, engagement, integrity, and adaptability. To that list, I would add compassion, humanity, empathy, and dash of selflessness.
One important way that we can all lead ourselves and others is to incorporate genuine appreciation and gratitude for the opportunities we have and the accomplishments we make into our day-to-day interactions. While it may not seem worth it or meaningful to you to give a positive comment about a colleague’s work, it might actually mean a great deal to them. As stated in this excellent post about giving and receiving it, “…appreciation is free and abundant.” There’s no reason not to show appreciation or gratitude to colleagues, co-workers, leaders, collaborators – anyone and everyone benefits from authentic, timely, and specific appreciation. Research shows that a little recognition can go a long way to increasing engagement and commitment.
Basically, if you see something, say something. Your song of praise may be just the music that person needs to keep on keeping on.
It’s something we can all do for each other, and it is something only we can do. Organizations, companies, and institutions cannot do it – only our fellow humans can. We can each make someone else’s day by telling them how we appreciate them and their work, we value their contributions, and we are grateful for their participation with us in this great big hairy endeavour of (whatever your chosen field is).
Statements like these from me or any leader can seem superficial or unimpactful, especially if repeated to the point where they sound insincere, and they certainly don’t make the challenges of our work and our lives these days easier. There is still a lot to happen in our world before things get easier again. My hope is that this message will inspire to team members to encourage and appreciate each other, for leaders to take some extra time and effort to express gratitude and support to their team members and colleagues, and for everyone to take a moment each and every day to lift someone else up. In that way, we can all rise.
As a follow-up to this, I did a prize draw for staff with the following “not-so-skill-testing” question:
The output was a Gratitude List – a compilation of the grateful and the appreciated. Over a few days, 81 people wrote more than 100 expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Some were brief and general, others lengthy and full of praise, and some included funny and warm anecdotes. Receiving and compiling the list was a heart-warming experience, with many of the comments being beautiful tear-jerkers. The final list was shared with all-staff, with considerations made for both the grateful and the appreciated to remain anonymous if they wished. The aim was to foster an attitude of gratitude that transcended positions, teams, and organizations. It seemed to work, with expressions from team members to leaders, leaders to colleagues, new employees to mentors, trainees to collaborators.
A few people expressed concern that some might feel slighted or neglected if they were not among the appreciated on the list (something that, for me, reflects the overall empathy and appreciation that staff members have for each other). While this was a real potential problem, and there are many people deserving of appreciation who did not get a specific mention through this exercise and on this list, that doesn’t mean that anyone’s contributions are not valuable or valued. Everyone’s work is an important part of what we accomplish and deliver as an organization. The objective of this exercise is to encourage the GIVING of appreciation and gratitude, and to make that a habit for everyone. Hopefully seeding the habit with this contest, expressions of gratitude and appreciation will continue without the promise of a prize.
I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work with such amazing, talented, compassionate, dedicated colleagues and friends. I’m committed to make more effort to make sure they all know that.
How about you? Has someone you work/play/live with done something recently that you’re grateful for? Did you tell them? Has anyone told you recently that they appreciated you or were grateful for something you did?
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.