Blue Zone Leadership: Expanding Leadership Influence with Gratitude

Blue Zone Leadership: Expanding Leadership Influence with Gratitude

Gordon and I celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary in Costa Rica. I’m taking a break from my focus on Leadership Development work. We look forward to hiking the volcanoes, soaking in mineral-rich mud baths, and surfing the waves. Something else piques my curiosity…

Have you heard of Blue Zones?

Pressed for time?  Listen to an Audio Recording of the Article.    

Costa Rica has one of the five recognized Blue Zones of the world – the Nicoya Region.  Researchers say that people live longer, healthier lives in these regions. They attribute these benefits to distinct factors these people focus on like a healthy diet, physical activity, and gratitude for community and connection.

The third item grabs my attention. What?!? Gratitude for community and connection helps you to live healthier and longer?!? What’s the science behind this phenomenon? This is hard to grasp. I ask our friendly guide to share his experience of living in a Blue Zone. With the stories he tells, he paints a picture of everyday life in his community.

Let’s take a peek…

  • Our guide shares his faith in God. He views his local congregation as part of his extended family.
  • The people of Nicoya value the time they spend with family and friends. Since they cook their food over an open fire, meals take longer to prepare. After eating a meal together, they linger at the table for more conversation.
  • Here, everyone gets a chance to speak and their opinion is valued. They use these conversations to develop solid plans to tackle their problems.
  • With their growth mindset, they believe they can achieve more by working They share their resources to make plans and create solutions.

As I listen to our guide, I’m quiet as a mouse…and my excitement grows. This connection is what we need in our businesses, isn’t it? We need a culture where the whole team is engaged and motivated to work together to achieve concrete business results that tackle:

  • Declining revenues due to new technology and AI innovations
  • Weakening margins due to competitive pressure
  • Increasing turnover in long-time top performers
  • Difficulty engaging new employees
  • Negativity like blame-games, excuse-making, and a lack of accountability

What’s happening in your business? Which of these business challenges are you dealing with?

Gallup Research Provides Leadership Insight: Engagement drops to 30% in Q1

As business leaders, we are aware of the importance of a healthy workplace.  And yet, a recent Gallup study found that, in the Q1 of 2024, engagement dropped to 30% among both full- and part-time employees. This decline represents 4.8 million fewer employees who are engaged in their work and workplace, marking the lowest reported level of engagement since 2013.

When engagement declines, your business problems multiply! In addition to the challenges I’ve already mentioned, many leaders are all too familiar with these disengagement results…

  • Decreased Productivity: Disengaged employees are less motivated to perform their best, leading to lower overall productivity levels within the organization.
  • Reduced innovation: A lack of engagement stifles creativity and innovation within teams, hindering the business’ ability to adapt and stay competitive.
  • Negative company culture: Disengaged employees can contribute to a toxic work environment, spreading negativity and impacting morale across the organization.

Any of these symptoms ring a bell?

Gossiping Kills Engagement, Connection, and Business Results

A single sentence in a leadership development book made me gasp!

Between our fun vacation activities, I enjoy reading. My friends often ask, “Danita, who packs leadership development books when they go on vacation?”

Well, I do!

This time, it’s Lessons in Leadership by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks! In one chapter, Sacks describes how, in the Torah, the rabbis, the wise teachers, regard gossiping as one of the worst sins of all.

Yes, a single sentence in this book makes me gasp!

“Gossip kills three people, the one who says it, the one it is said about, and the one who listens in.”

Gossiping kills relationships. It destroys connection in the community. Where there’s gossiping, you’ll hear many CCC behaviors. That’s what I call it when I hear people criticizing, condemning, and complaining about others.

It kills a Growth Mindset, which is a requirement for high leadership performance. Gossiping creates a toxic Red Zone Culture.

This CCC behavior makes every leadership responsibility (Art of Virtue Based Leadership by Dr. Mark McCloskey) much more difficult:

  • Casting Vision – articulating a compelling vision that provides direction and guides your team toward a common goal.
  • Formulating Strategy – developing plans and strategies to achieve your vision, whilst considering market conditions, a competitive landscape, and internal resources.
  • Aligning Resources: Managing resources such as finances, talent, and technology effectively to support your strategic objectives.
  • Motivating: Cultivating a positive work environment so your employees feel valued and motivated to reach their full potential.

CCC kills a Growth Mindset, which is a requirement for expanding your leadership and getting concrete business results.

I realize that gossiping is a toxic behavior that creates a Red Zone Business Culture.

So, how might gossiping and CCC impact your business?

You can read more about the impact of the Criticize, Condemn, and Complain Culture HERE.

The Shocking Contrast Between a Blue Zone vs. Red Zone Business Culture

On the flight home, I reflect on the connection-building behaviors we’ve seen in Costa Rica. The words in Rabbi Sacks’ book still haunt me. I grab a notebook and start mapping out a comparative chart. I want a clear picture of the negative impact of gossiping, whether at work or home.

I’m wondering…what does this mean for your business?

Blue Zone Culture

(Engaged, Supportive, and Collaborative)

Red Zone Culture

(Toxic, Destructive, and Disengaged)

Strong relationships, based on trust, improves communication. It fosters a supportive network for every member of the team.Erosion of Trust. Gossiping erodes trust.  It undermines relationships and creates communication breakdowns. This leads to a disengaged workforce.
Sense of Purpose strengthens fulfillment. Next-Gen leaders see how their work contributes to the goals of the business. They show enthusiasm for their work, spreading positivity throughout the workplace.Going in Circles. Gossiping leaves Next-Gen leaders feeling unclear about their purpose and disconnected. They struggle to see the relevance of their role. Their negative attitude often spreads throughout the workplace.
Problem-solving as a leadership team strengthens collaboration and connection, encouraging innovative solutions. Status Quo from gossiping creates a divided team that struggles to resolve issues creatively. It impacts productivity and morale.
Growth Mindsets flourishes in a culture of learning, and innovation. It drives business success. Emerging leaders with a growth mindset are eager to learn. They develop new leadership skills and seek out opportunities hidden behind the challenge.Fixed mindsets develop from gossiping. Growth and innovation are stifled.  Next-Gen leaders become resistant to learning new leadership skills. They see challenges as insurmountable obstacles.

My chart aligns with the findings of the Gallup study that I mentioned earlier. They report that U.S. employees were increasingly detached from their employers. Employees and Next-Gen leaders reported:

  • less role clarity,
  • lower satisfaction with where they work
  • less connection to their companies’ mission or purpose

I was also stunned to discover that in the world of Positive Psychology, they also talk about Red Zone vs. Blue Zone.  Check out this chart:

Are you seeing the red flags of a disengaged Red Zone in your business?

If yes, what might you do to create a healthy Blue Zone Culture? A place where emerging leaders and your business can thrive?

2 Action Steps to Coach Gratitude and Nurture a Strong Connection Mindset

I believe a new level of wisdom and leadership grows from a new level of gratitude. It’s time to revolutionize gratitude and fight the toxic Red Zone behaviors!

A recent Gallup article spotlights the 4 “C’s” of a workplace value proposition. Interestingly, “community,” is one of them! (You can read this insightful article here.)

The author submits that socializing and building relationships are good for business. According to Gallup’s meta-analysis of 112,312 teams, people with a best friend at work are more likely to be engaged in their jobs. They are better at engaging customers and producing higher-quality work. That’s because strong relationships are the foundation for trust, support, and meaningful work.

This sounds like a Blue Zone Business Culture, right?

Consider these questions…

  • Blue Zone: How might Gratitude help build a healthy Blue Zone culture?
  • Red Zone: How might Gratitude be an antidote for Red Zone Behaviors?

The following Gratitude Connection Steps drive top performance in your teams and Next-Gen leaders.

Gratitude Connection Step #1: Use Your Leadership Influence to Fight Gossiping with Positive Thoughts and Actions

Red Zone behaviors and actions are deadly! Gossiping, and complaining about others destroy relationships and kill business growth!

Gossip kills!  That’s how Rabbi Sacks describes it in his book.  The shocking words remind me of this scripture:

Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) – The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Stop Red Zone behaviors with this Positive Thoughts Exercise:

    • Shift focus from gossiping to gratitude! Challenge your Next-Gen leaders to shift their focus from gossiping to gratitude! Invite them to list 3 positive characteristics or skills in a colleague they don’t get along with. (I vividly remember my journey in dealing with a difficult person. I know this might be uncomfortable! The first time, it took me one hour to come up with 3 items. 1 hour! It was excruciating! However, I did it every day for a month. Today, I am great friends with that person.)
Gratitude Community Step #2: Stimulate a Growth Mindset with Gift Discovery Action

Many people see gossiping, criticizing, condemning, and complaining as normal. Due to a lack of awareness, they don’t see how these negative behaviors stunt their leadership capabilities and their business results.

Stop the toxic impact of the Red Zone Culture with the Gift Discovery Action.

    • Encourage every member on your team to take a survey tool, like StrengthsFinder or DiSC. These tools help them discover more about themselves and each other. Guide them as they learn about both their strengths and areas in need of growth. Then, challenge them to ditch gossip and criticizing others. Instead, invite them to channel their energy into offering support and understanding. Awareness and gratitude for each other’s strengths and growth areas fuel collaboration and engagement.

Coach Gratitude to Strengthen Your Leadership Influence

We are designed to be engaged, to be in a community, working together for a better future for everyone.

Our trip to a Blue Zone in Costa Rica was a powerful reminder of the importance of nurturing a Connection Mindset. Our businesses need connections for healthy leadership and healthy business growth. We need a culture where the whole team is engaged and motivated to work together to achieve concrete business results.

To cultivate Blue Zone Connection, wise leaders coach gratitude and encourage Next-Gen leaders to:

  • Fight gossiping with positive thoughts and actions.
  • Stimulate a growth mindset with gift discovery action.

By coaching gratitude, your Next-Gen leaders will stop gossiping, criticizing, condemning, and complaining about others. Instead, they become deeply engaged in their work community.

Like the people living in the Blue Zone in Costa Rica, they work together to develop plans. Instead of gossiping about each other’s weaknesses, they focus on their goals. They believe they achieve more with practice and working together.

Your leadership matters, NOW, more than ever.

Leadership Lesson: Nurture a Connection Mindset in your followers by coaching gratitude practices that strengthen all their relationships.

Leadership Question: How might gratitude strengthen your Connection Mindset?

Copyright 2024, Danita Bye. All rights reserved.

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