How the Power Of Gratitude in Leadership Development Impacts Our Brains and Business
As I’m working on the power of Gratitude in Leadership Development, I’m scanning a host of books, articles, and resources on the topic. The topic sentences of this article caught my attention:
- Gratitude helps us overcome our hard-wired negativity bias—our tendency to focus on negative events rather than positive ones.
- Practicing gratitude also requires slowing down long enough to think and reflect—which seems harder and harder in our “always-on” culture.
- If gratitude doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s normal. Welcome to being human.
- By now, it’s no secret that practicing gratitude allows our brains to release serotonin and dopamine—two “feel good” chemicals that positively impact mood, willpower, and motivation.
I trust you find this article captivating also. I’d love to hear about your personal experience with the power of Gratitude in your leadership journey especially during the Holiday Season.
Title: The Science Of Gratitude: How Thankfulness Impacts Our Brains And Business
Author: Kevin Kruse
Date: Nov 22, 2021
You can read the article HERE
‘Tis the season to reflect on what we’re thankful for. On Thanksgiving Day, millions will gather around a holiday meal for this exact purpose. There is a lot to be grateful for in 2021—widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines and the ability to gather safely are just a few. But what do we have to gain by being grateful, and does an attitude of gratitude actually make a difference at work?
What We All Have in Common with Negative Nancy & Ned
Gratitude helps us overcome our hard-wired negativity bias—our tendency to focus on negative events rather than positive ones. Think about your most memorable air travel experience. Not “best,” necessarily, but the one that sticks out from the others. Why do you remember that trip in particular? A missed connection, lost baggage, or nauseating turbulence, perhaps? The trips that saw us through to our destination without incident are the first to fade from our memories because negativity bias is always at work. Earlier in human history, negativity bias had an important survival function. Perceiving a threat more strongly than a benign encounter could have been the difference between life and death. But today, when the most dangerous things we do are drive on the freeway and eat cholesterol-laden food, negativity bias just makes us unhappy and anxious. It also explains why it takes so much intentionality to practice gratitude.
Practicing gratitude also requires slowing down long enough to think and reflect—which seems harder and harder in our “always-on” culture. Many of us are so overscheduled, overstimulated, and focused on the future that we struggle to see what’s right in front of us. Or, we’re so obsessed with improving our situation—chasing a promotion, trying to lose weight, or getting out of debt—that all we can think about is what we lack (there’s that pesky negativity bias again).
All that to say, if gratitude doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s normal. Welcome to being human. But just because your gratitude muscle is weak doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise it. It takes time and intentionality, but the benefits of regularly reflecting on what you’re grateful for is worth the investment.
How Gratitude Changes Our Brains
By now, it’s no secret that practicing gratitude allows our brains to release serotonin and dopamine—two “feel good” chemicals that positively impact mood, willpower, and motivation. But what’s not as well known is regularly engaging in a gratitude practice strengthens these neural pathways. Over time, practicing gratitude will “train” your brain to focus on what’s going well versus what isn’t. And that leads to all sorts of positive outcomes—mental and physical. One study of nurses found that gratitude consistently predicted less exhaustion, fewer sick days, and higher job satisfaction.
How Gratitude Impacts Employee Engagement
Gratitude isn’t just good for our brains; it’s good for business. Feeling undervalued is one of the main reasons employees leave their jobs. People want to feel appreciated—that their work matters and someone is paying attention when they do a good job. What’s more, when someone receives gratitude, the same feel-good chemicals are released, which can create higher levels of motivation and satisfaction at work. Gratitude is closely linked to employee recognition—and there is an overwhelming amount of research that shows how recognizing employees leads to positive outcomes. An O.C. Tanner survey found recognition to be the top driver of great work, ranking above promotions and increased salaries. A SHRM survey revealed nearly 70% of HR professionals believe that employee recognition positively impacts retention. Further, Gallup discovered that employees who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit their current job in the next 12 months. With The Great Resignation still in full effect, recognition and showing gratitude is a simple way to let employees know they’re valued—which will make them more likely to stay.
Spreading Gratitude All Year Long: Big Ideas for Your Organization
Start meetings with a gratitude exercise. Getting in the habit of starting team or one-on-one meetings with people sharing what they’re grateful for will not only set a positive tone for the conversation ahead but also foster better relationships and promote a healthy team culture. Keep things fresh by changing the category week to week. For example:
- What is a project you’re thankful to have had the opportunity to work on?
- Who is a colleague you’re grateful for and why?
- What is a small, daily luxury you’re grateful to have?
- What is a technological advancement you can’t imagine life without?
- What’s a recent lesson you’re thankful to have learned?
Re-evaluate company recognition programs. With many cultures pursuing hybrid and remote work long term, it’s a good time to take a hard look at how your organization formally shows appreciation for employees. There is a myriad of avenues to choose from, including public shoutouts, recognition for core values lived out, and peer-nominated awards. Think about what would best resonate based on the culture you’re trying to create, and invite feedback from managers and employees on what kinds of recognition would be most motivating to them.
Write a thank-you note. Handwritten thank-you notes offer benefits for both the writer and the recipient. Writing by hand is known to create stronger mental connections with the material than typing, paving the way for those neural gratitude pathways. On the opposite end, receiving a handwritten note feels a lot more personal than, say, a Slack or email message. Consider writing a “thank you” note to someone both above and below you on the organizational chart this year. Leaders at the very top often have difficult and thankless jobs, so a note of appreciation could make their day.
Gratitude is good for our brains, our teams, and our organizations—and as such can positively impact society at large. As author Robin Sharma puts it, “Gratitude drives happiness. Happiness boosts productivity. Productivity reveals mastery. And mastery inspires the world.”
Kevin Kruse is the Founder + CEO of LEADx, a platform that scales and sustains leadership habits through micro-coaching and behavioral nudges. Kevin is also a New York Times bestselling author of Great Leaders Have No Rules, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, and Employee Engagement 2.0.