Do You Want to Transform Your Organization’s Culture? Consider an IIL ‘Grateful Leadership’ BOOK CLUB OFFERING!

Blue Toad CoverA few months ago, CompSource Oklahoma, a leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance in the state since 1933, chose Grateful Leadership as their corporate book club offering as a means of elevating their corporate culture. Sixty people signed up for the experience and received a copy of the book, thanks to the generosity of the company!

When I heard about this initiative from HR Director Erin McDermott, who had read the book and thought it would be an excellent addition to the company’s leadership development initiatives, particularly in light of the significant change CompSource is undergoing as they transition to a mutual insurance company, I nearly jumped up and down with excitement. Then, what really delighted me was the highly organized, five-session program put together by Geoffrey Varner, Learning Development Coordinator — complete with reading assignments and “homework” based on the weekly readings. He also designed a PowerPoint presentation for each session. I loved it so much that I contacted Erin and Geoff and said IIL would be pleased to have me lead an online closing session for the book club members. Much to my delight, all of this happened, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences imaginable. Over and over, I heard how people were now acknowledging and showing their appreciation to co-workers much more frequently. It was a thrill to realize that this kind of organized, well thought out book club offering has the possibility of changing or enhancing, and even transforming, a company into one with an acknowledgment culture. I also learned that according to participants, there are already some wonderful models of Grateful Leadership in the company, who just happened to be at our online event and who received lots of acknowledgment from others: Mark and Rita, you know who you are! :)

Congratulations to IIL’s “Acknowledgment Ambassador” — Ouida Sizemore Linkous

Ouida awardIn 2006, IIL published The Power of Acknowledgment and began sending me out to train all sorts of leaders in developing and honing the skill of acknowledgment. In no time at all, we started seeing dramatic results wherever this notion was embraced and practiced, which gave us true insight into how transformational the message really was. Within a year, we could see that some people resonated profoundly with this work and put it to great use in their workplaces and communities as well as with their families and loved ones. This is why IIL began to very selectively create Acknowledgment Ambassadors. In seven years, there have only been four…until now.

On this day, we are honored to celebrate and welcome in Ouida Sizemore Linkous as our fifth Acknowledgment Ambassador! Ouida has a natural and inarguable attraction to acknowledgment, gratitude, praise and appreciation. She is a beacon of light shining on the work we have undertaken at IIL, with 100 percent commitment and enthusiasm, and it is with great pleasure that we present her with an accompanying award to show our appreciation.

We are incredibly privileged to have Ouida on our “make a difference in the world team,” and know that she brings forth this capability to change the world with all she comes in contact with. Ouida, we are proud to have you as what you call yourself: our #1 fan! We are definitely yours.

Congratulations!! We know you will keep bringing forth the power of acknowledgment wherever you are…and wherever you go. All of us at IIL are proud to know you.

With gratitude,

Judy Umlas

The Beauty of Blogging

The Beauty of Blogging

Cecilia & Pheary Watkins, Grateful Leadership blog comment contributors

I recently wrote a post called “Opportunities for Acknowledgment Are All Around Us”. While it was a shorter post, the idea was massive, and more importantly, it proved the immense impact a simple acknowledgment can have on us all. And if you for some reason don’t believe me, read the comments section of that post, because that alone is proof of what gratitude and acknowledgment can bring forth. Allow me to explain further…

Cecilia Watkins is a woman I have never met before, but because of our mutual admiration for all things acknowledgment, we’ve built a true connection in a matter of weeks! Read the below interaction between Cecilia and myself and you’ll see just how quickly acknowledgment spreads!

A Valentine’s Day Message…

To the many loyal fans and followers of Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment,


Those of you who are drawn to this transformational work are all unique and amazing people! Help bring it to your workplace, your families and to your communities! Give your heartfelt communications to those around you. Tell them the difference they make, their value and their special qualities on a regular basis – not just today, but every day.

I acknowledge all of you for being on this journey with us at IIL! And Happy Valentine’s Day to you and to all whom you care about!

With love, gratitude and appreciation,

Judy Umlas

A Real Winner – Bosede Akamiokhor!

RBA with Judith Umlas and RogerAt a 2013 Rockland Business Association (RBA) meeting in which Grateful Leadership was the keynote presentation, the RBA raffled off a copy of IIL’s book on that powerful subject. The winner was Bodede Akamoikhor, Community Program Manager at Affinity Health Plan – headquartered in the Bronx, New York. Roger Scheiber, VP Development of the Rockland Business Association, presented the book to her. 

Here is how Bosede describes her reaction to winning the prize:

I was obviously excited about winning something, but I was more excited about it being a gift that focused on gratitude. Being grateful has always been important to me and is very close to my heart. I know how it feels when my bosses show gratitude for my work. The book was extremely timely for me because of the changes being experienced at home and at work. I felt it was very important for leaders to be expressive in their appreciation of extra effort. I shared the book with some of our leaders, since it resonated deeply with me, and got a great response to this simple yet powerful concept.

The Best Valentine’s Day and Everyday Gifts You Can Give!

NOTE: The below is an except from The Best Valentine’s Day and Everyday Gifts You Can Give – originally published on the Whole Foods Market Blog.

JudyLilith 2The best gifts you can give your co-workers, spouse, parents, kids or the coffee barista who gives great service are your acknowledgment and gratitude! Watch their faces light up, see them be moved to tears by your simple expression of praise and appreciation and even witness them perform better and stay longer in their jobs. These “gifts” are simple, cheap and constantly available to you to give to those who deserve them. Yet most of us don’t do this! So we need reminders.

Kids don’t have the social barriers to acknowledging people that adults do. Starting a tradition of gratefulness and appreciation early makes kids happier, which very naturally makes them go from great kids to grateful leaders when they reach the workplace! Once you share this very real “super power” with them, they start practicing it immediately.

Here’s how you can make gratitude and acknowledgment a part of your Valentine’s Day and the rest of your life:

1. Discuss the 5 C’s of Acknowledgment with your families, teachers, co-workers, teams, classes and scout troops.

2. Deliver acknowledgments in a heartfelt and sincere way every time you see the opportunity – no excuses!

3. Keep a gratitude journal – write what you’re grateful for every day. Some studies show that people who do this are happier and more peaceful.

Opportunities for Acknowledgment are All Around Us!

poa-small-bookSome time ago, this little interchange occurred via email between myself and Greg Voakes. I knew it was something I wanted to post here on the Grateful Leadership blog because it really made my day! As simple as it was, it had such a huge impact. Greg sent me an email and received my “Out of Office” response, which included:

Thank you for your message. I will be out of the office on Monday, September 23 and Tuesday, September 24th at a Publishing Business Conference & Expo. If you have any urgent matters, please call Vanessa Innes at 212-515-5177. Have a great day, and please remember to acknowledge someone today!

Best regards, Judy

After receiving the automatic reply, Greg then took the opportunity to write back: “This is the nicest and warmest out-of-office reply I’ve ever read :) Thanks for that!“ I was so touched by his response to my automatic reply. Once I returned I requested his permission to post it on our blog, to which he replied “Sure!”.

7 New Year’s Resolutions for Grateful (and Potentially Grateful) Leaders

if_not_now_2beditedTraditionally, the idea of a “meeting” is to gather a group for a specific purpose, whether it be business-related or otherwise. But let’s be honest…attention is not always 100%. Some people check and send text messages (I feel these people need forgiveness and behavioral therapy, if not recovery programs), others daydream or think of shopping lists, and some, like artist Michael Indorato, sketch.

During a recent meeting, Michael’s unconscious heard the words “if not now, then when?” Almost immediately, his artistic spirit was moved and inspired to create the drawing you see to the left. I happened to see his sketch at the end of the very same meeting, and asked him if he thought it could apply to Acknowledgment. To my delight, he was in total alignment with this, and added that heading to the sketch for all of us to consider and (hopefully) take to heart.

I truly believe that as 2013 ends and the New Year approaches, we MUST take this message to heart. In fact, I believe it is the cornerstone of the following 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Grateful (or Potentially Grateful) Leaders. So here they are:

Passing the Torch…

robertopic2It is our honor and privilege as parents to be able to model and mold the behaviors and values we want our children to have as adults. Watching them grow and experience new beginnings and insights proves to be one of the most rewarding feelings ever imagined… especially if we’re able to see it firsthand. With this is mind, it’s my absolute pleasure to share with you this wonderful example of the difference we can all make in a child’s life:

Roberto Daniel, one of the 11 Grateful Leaders featured in Grateful Leadership, recently passed the torch of acknowledgment down to his two sons when he gave them IIL Publishing’s latest book, You’re Totally Awesome! The Power of Acknowledgment for Kids. The behaviors within gratitude and acknowledgment are ones he believes in wholeheartedly and displays wherever he goes with both his employees and family alike.

Finding a Platform for Our Passion … and Being Grateful For It

A few years ago, our publishing team was trying to find the right title for the book that McGraw-Hill and IIL were co-publishing about acknowledgment. All of my previous training work and speaking engagements had been titled “Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment,” based on the first book, The Power of Acknowledgment. Because of this, I quite naturally assumed it would also become the title of the next book. However, when the suggestion of Grateful Leadership was thrown into the ring, goose bumps shot from my head to my toes. That, for me, was the Truth Test. I knew it was right and jumped on it!

gratefulSo what do you do when you think you have a perfect title? Of course, you Google it. Admittedly, I did so with my eyes partially closed, because I didn’t want to see the zillions of books, articles, blog posts, etc. with those words in them. I didn’t want to have to give up on it. But imagine my shock (and delight) to have gotten what is known as a “Googlewhack”—a “Google search query consisting of exactly two words without quotation marks, that returns exactly one hit,” as Wikipedia puts it. It was a NASA blog post about how people should remember to be grateful leaders on Thanksgiving! Following this, Grateful Leadership was happily accepted by the IIL team and McGraw-Hill.