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


The Great Result of Asking People How They Want to be Acknowledged

HR Happy Holidays 2013

Emily Robinson-Endert, SPHR Director of Human Resources at Covenant Woods, and a participant in one of IIL’s Grateful Leadership webinars, recently shared this simple, yet effective strategy with our group during one of our sessions. After hearing it I was filled with joy. Therefore, I asked Emily if she would mind writing up her strategy for all of us.

Much to my delight, she agreed to do so…

When I hire a new person for my team, I ask how he or she prefers to be recognized or acknowledged. Some people will say a simple thank you; others say in front of the team; and some say chocolate! :)

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:

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.

What is the Connection Between Grateful Leadership/Grateful Employees and Project Management?

boothThis post is based on one of the questions I received during the live Q&A following my keynote address, From Great Kids to Grateful Leaders, at IIL’s International Project Management Day (IPMDay). The question was asked by Megan Mason of Comcast. There were about 2,500 people present for that live follow up to the pre-recorded program, with — based on registrations — a potential audience of about another 60,000!

I want to present some delightful evidence of the way in which Grateful Leadership leads to Grateful Employees supporting project success. Here’s is how I answered Megan’s question during the live Q&A:

Gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgment are essential for maximum project team performance. When people don’t experience being valued they are often not motivated to do their best. They remain unengaged or even worse, disengaged (according to the Gallup Organization categories).

I like to make the evidence for this as tangible and as real as possible. Therefore, I cited the huge amount of work that a multitude of IIL teams perform each and every year to bring you International Project Management Day. The work starts about a week after the previous event, meaning now our people have about three days and counting to start planning International Project Management Day 2014, and always with both great success stories and the lessons learned.

All along the way, our people get acknowledged for their contributions, cheered for their successes, and even congratulated for their risk taking. So in this spirit, I want to share the delightful poem that was sent around to all team members on every IIL project team that created such a phenomenal project success this year. With the permission of Lori Milhaven, Executive Vice President, Marketing, I now share it proudly with you! Thanks, Lori!

Pebbles in a Pond…

NANA-LogoI often tell the people both at conferences and in IIL’s Grateful Leadership classes that when you acknowledge someone it is like throwing pebbles in a pond: you have absolutely no idea how far the ripples will go! We saw a living, breathing, powerful demonstration of this during the sessions I recently led for 450 managers at the NANA Development Corporation, headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska.

All of the participants in the class had received the eBook of Grateful Leadership, thanks to the generosity of the company. One of the managers, Ken Weber, told the class that he had read half the book that morning, which led him to take an action he would otherwise not have taken. He shared with the class the note he wrote to Customer Service at the National Safety Council. Here it is, with his permission:

Chocolate Pizza and Lots of Acknowledgment!

PoA For Kids Signing Pic 1

Chocolate pizza? Well, what else do you serve to a group of kid contributors at a book launch/signing?! Other than a bucket of acknowledgments for the great job they did, of course!

Last week, IIL Publishing officially released the long-awaited kids’ book, You’re Totally Awesome! The Power of Acknowledgment for Kids, and everyone had a ball!

The book came into being as a result of how quickly I saw these kids put the concept of acknowledgment into action after it was explained to them. Once they realized it holds the power to make their friendships, their schools and their sports teams – in short, the world – a better place, they wanted to participate!