An Attitude of Gratitude — The Law of Reciprocity at Work



By Myles Miller

 “Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the Attitude of Gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.”  — Zig Ziglar

What has become the focus of a self-centered society and might ultimately be its downfall is the belief that one can stand on one’s own and not need or rely on any one else to achieve success in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the quote above reflects, we have an opportunity to engage with our world each and every day. Not only should we, but we must take the initiative to perform a simple act that could have far reaching potential. In fact this act, which should be performed more frequently each day, creates a great potential for the entire human race.

While this thought may sound grandiose or irrelevant depending on your perspective and degree of connection to humanity around you, it can be transformative in nature to what each day of your life and the lives of those around you can and will become.

Do you have goals and ambitions? Do you want more of whatever you desire and seem to struggle to acquire it a level of achievement that would satisfy you?

All this and more creates an environment where people can thrive and grow into all that they wish to become. But this requires a refocused and redefined approach to each and every human interaction we have in our lives — those who are closest to us and those that we may only meet in passing.

In Judy Umlas’ book, “The Power of Acknowledgment,” similar ideas and insights are shared that would help anyone understand how to acknowledge others and show them gratitude for even the smallest acts. Judy’s other books, “Grateful Leadership” and “You’re Totally Awesome” echo the same themes and ideas as well.

These ideas are not difficult to implement but with conscious effort and resolve to make a difference in one’s life and those around them, they can be accomplished in short fashion.

Now while these may all seem like good ideas, they are grounded in actual proven facts of a law, known as the Law of Reciprocity. This law states that when one positive action is done to someone, that person wants to do the same or similar positive action to that person or to others. Some have referred to this law as an idea related to “paying it forward.”

How does each of these elements tie together and how can you implement this practice each day in your interaction with the human race?

Start with your perception of humanity in general. We all have at the heart of who we are the will and capability to see others with caring and a willingness to acknowledge that they exist. What gets in the way is our busy-ness of life, where we seem to ignore or forget that others matter as much or more than we do in many cases. So start with a shift in how you see the world. Change the paradigm in your mind from, “What can they do for me?” to “What can I do for them?” It is a shift from a selfish attitude to one that is selfless.

This concept can be taught to others at a young age and can be adopted to be implemented in one’s adult life as well.

For me, one frequent application of this idea is to take time to acknowledge those who do anything for me, great or small. When they have performed any task or come through in some way. I take the time publicly, in meetings and privately, through notes of thanks sent and given to people often. It takes but a few minutes but has a short and long term effect that motivates and greats even greater results.

So, here are some ideas to try each day: find one person who you can do something for without any expectation of them doing something in return. Buy that person in line behind you a cup of coffee. Send someone on your team a note just to thank them for what they have done recently in their day-to-day efforts related to nothing done for you directly. Don’t wait for a special occasion to send someone a gift; let them know how much you care about them other than on their birthday or anniversary. Every time you see a person with a name tag in any service industry, use their name and thank them for their service. You could do this once, twice, three times a day or more. In fact, if you try this over the next 30 days, each day practicing just once or more, you will find in time that you will begin to want to do it more and more, making the “Power of Acknowledgment” and the Law of Reciprocity almost subconscious acts in every aspect of your life.

So begin today. Be grateful for what you have each day, be grateful for those around you, those you know and those who you have yet to meet. Then take the next step and acknowledge them in some way. Do something unexpected and watch what happens. The Law of Reciprocity will happen over and over again. People will begin to do more and more for others, and one person at a time doing more for others will create a state in which the world can and will change.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi


There is NEVER an Expiration Date for Acknowledgments!

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct two Grateful Leadership two-day sessions for a large global company on behalf of International Institute for Learning. As always, I was deeply moved, inspired and motivated by the results and the breakthroughs, and this one is a real prize winner!

We did an exercise called “The Grateful Leadership Knock Your Socks Off Acknowledgment Exercise™ in which I asked each participant to write out a heartfelt and sincere acknowledgment of someone in their career who made a real difference to them. Then some people shared what they wrote with the class and it was totally inspirational. As almost always happens with this exercise, a few people spoke or wrote about someone from their past who was either a family member, a friend, or a teacher. Shortly after the session was completed, the class coordinator wrote this to all (thank you, Michelle!):


I want to hear your stories of putting this to use!

In response, Katie, one of the participants, wrote this email to all of the attendees in both sessions, which I have received her generous permission to share with you:

Subject: RE: Follow up from Grateful Leadership Course

Hello all!

I know not all of you were in the same session of Grateful Leadership that I was in, but I had to share my follow-up story.

During the class, I mentioned that I had always wanted to thank a former teacher for the guidance she gave me, but attempts to get in contact with her in the past had failed. As soon as we took our next break, someone in the class called me over and immediately initiated the search. By the end of the next day, she had found and contacted my former teacher. I absolutely could not believe that I would be able to talk to my teacher again after more than 20 years.

At this point, my nerves started to get to me a little bit. Some of the people in the class shared their own stories with me and the class overall gave me the confidence to get past the embarrassment and pass on the acknowledgement that I had waited so long to give. There were a few attempts to call her before I finally got through and talked to her. After being so unsure of what I would say to her, we ended up talking for more than a half hour. She remembered not only my class, but my family as well after all these years and all the students she had. Apparently, a high number of students from my class have been in touch with her, and there is one of my former classmates that is in contact with her on a regular basis.

She stressed how wonderful it feels to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life in some way, no matter how big or small the impact.

I absolutely have to say that the Grateful Leadership class and all of the people there have had an impact on me that is going to last. My teacher still lives in the same area, so I hope to visit her the next time I head down to Georgia!

After all of this, I really want to acknowledge Avery, Meg, and Saim for sharing experiences and helping to build my confidence and give me the push to move forward. I absolutely have to acknowledge Jessica for finding my teacher. She volunteered to do this right away and ran with it. I was completely blown away! Thank you so much!

And finally, I have to thank Judy for this class. There are a lot of classes offered here at Volvo, but this is one that I would recommend to absolutely EVERYONE whether they are a leader or not. This class will change not only your work life, but your personal life as well!

Best regards,

Katie Horrocks

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I invite everyone everywhere to see how the fact that this acknowledgment was sitting with Katie for 20 years made no difference in its power and impact –both for her and her fortunate and gifted teacher! We can all do this, and experience the joy of the difference we can make to another human being. And please note the way Katie used her developing acknowledgment skills to validate and value the great contributions of her fellow participants in our course who helped her get through her concerns and resistance to taking this important action. I personally acknowledge all of them, and especially Katie for becoming a true “Acknowledgment Ambassador.” And of course I acknowledge her wonderful, make-a-difference-to-countless-young-people teacher!

So remember, there is no expiration date on the acknowledgments we all have with us in our hearts, minds and spirits. So each of us can greatly benefit from Katie’s awesome example! So let’s all follow her wonderful example go do it! Who are you carrying in your heart that you have not (yet) let know the difference he or she made to you?

Until the next time….


Free HR Webcast with Judith Umlas: Grateful Leadership – Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results: Sponsored by SilkRoad

Presented by Yours Truly… that is Judith W. Umlas

Effective leaders must find ways to enhance people’s level of engagement, commitment, and support, especially in the difficult periods all organizations experience at one time or another. Engaged employees work with passion and feel connected and loyal to their organization. This yields higher productivity, sales, and results. Non-engagement in the workplace results in poor performance, limited productivity, and an erosion of the bottom line. People need consistent affirmation of their value and contribution to the organization in order to know that their efforts are appreciated. This can be accomplished through the practice of Grateful LeadershipTM.

Attendees will:
  • Understand the need for Grateful Leadership to create a culture of appreciation in the workplace and overcome the barriers to using acknowledgment.
  • Demonstrate the language and subtleties of authentic and heartfelt acknowledgement behavior so that people can and will practice and use them immediately following the webinar.
  • Describe how to coach teams, managers, and other corporate stakeholders in how to use Grateful Leadership to produce breakthrough results.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
2:00 p.m. (Eastern)
1:00 p.m. (Central)
12:00 p.m. (Mountain)
11:00 a.m. (Pacific)
Date or time doesn’t fit your schedule? Go ahead and register anyway. We will be sure you receive an email with a link to the recorded webinar following the event.

Using Acknowledgment to Create a Culture of Wellbeing? Wellbeing Leader Judy Umlas Says It Only Takes 5 Cs




It was Stephen Covey who said, “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival—to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” It’s a philosophy that Judy Umlas, Senior Vice-President of International Institute for Learning, lives every day. She is such a passionate giver of acknowledgment that she has written The Power of Acknowledgment and Grateful Leadership to tout its many benefits.

Read more at Wisdom Works.

Grateful Leaders: Judith Umlas and Joe Upton at BMI

Judy Umlas informally interviews Joe Upton, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Edwards Brothers Malloy, Inc., participant at the Grateful Leadership session at the Book Manufacturers’ Institute (BMI) 2014 Management Conference in Fort Myers, Florida. Joe movingly shares the results of an exercise in which he acknowledges his father, Herb Upton, the Founder and former President of Malloy Inc, one of two companies that came together in 2012 to form Edwards Brothers Malloy.