Grateful Leadership – Welcome!

I am so happy to welcome you to the new Grateful Leadership blog, which builds upon the years of work that has been conducted with Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment. Now why should you be interested in Grateful Leadership? Let’s say you already are, or aspire to be, a leader. You are responsible for a few people, or maybe for a great many people. In a tough economy, you think to yourself how grateful your people should be to you and to your organization to have a job at all. But wait! I am inviting you to turn this way of thinking and behaving upside down—I am inviting you to be a Grateful Leader!

Some of you may be familiar with Servant Leadership, which started in the 1960s. The groundbreaking concept was that leaders should serve their people first and help meet their needs. Many thought this was impractical or inappropriate. But years later, phenomenal results are still being demonstrated in the areas of employee engagement, satisfaction and bottom line results from using this practice.

Similarly, the idea of your being or becoming Grateful Leaders may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first. But you will quickly see the benefits—to you, to your organization and to your people when you start tapping into the fountain of gratitude that exists in each of us, although you may not know it’s there in the beginning. So let’s start by considering the definition of a Grateful Leader as I see it.

As defined in my new book, Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results, published by McGraw-Hill and IIL, a Grateful Leader is one who sees, recognizes and expresses appreciation for their employees’ and other stakeholders’ contributions and passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis.

Once these leaders allow themselves to feel and express their gratitude, the next step is to take action to acknowledge, support, and engage their people profoundly so that these outcomes can be achieved. These leaders really want to know their employees and other stakeholders as people.  They are grateful for all that their stakeholders do, give, provide, demonstrate and are. They are grateful for the opportunity to serve and to lead. From time to time in this blog, I will be profiling people whom I see as Grateful Leaders – people who are unbelievably gracious, humble and inspiring. Some of them are the Grateful Leader Profiles from my new book; others are Grateful Leaders who come to my attention from people like you who follow this blog. I would love your participation in this way and others we can come up with to spread the word.

Here’s an example of one Grateful Leader whom I profile in my book. I was deeply moved when conducting an interview with Co-CEO of Whole Foods, Walter Robb, when he revealed how choked up he gets whenever he delivers a speech to large groups of people (and small ones, too, no doubt). He is overcome by the gratitude he feels, he said, for having the opportunity to provide good, healthy food to so many people as part of his life’s work! I was so inspired by his humility and his profound gratitude. And his people feel incredibly valued and appreciated in his environment – I learned about this firsthand as I moved from department to department in that company.

So how do you establish this culture of appreciation and acknowledgment in your organization where there may be very little or even none of this now? I clearly remember the woman who came up to me after one of the keynote speeches I delivered on Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment a while back. She had a big grin on her face and told me the following:

She had worked at Booz Allen Hamilton for years and loved going to work every day. She felt valued and appreciated, and regularly received positive feedback. Then, out of the blue, she received a job offer from another company.  It was for a higher level job with increased pay.  She couldn’t resist this double incentive. With some sadness, she left Booz Allen Hamilton, feeling it was the right thing for her future career.

After a few months, however, she began to wonder whether she’d made a mistake. Despite the perks, she found it hard to thrive, or even survive, at her new company.  Unlike Booz Allen Hamilton, her new firm had no culture of appreciation; they never acknowledged her for anything, even when she felt she was going above and beyond. People silently performed in their private cubicles, and then went home.

She told me, “I’m an example of who/what you’ve been talking about.”  The week before, she said, she had quit her new job. She then added, “I’m going back to my former company, even if I have to take a lower level, lower paying job than I had when I left.”

I found this story to be both amazing and inspiring. Gratitude and appreciation were so crucial to this woman that she had left a higher paying, more senior level job to return to a company where people took the time to validate and appreciate her. Later I called a Partner in the company to see whether she had heard of this happening before, and she laughed and said, “We call them the comeback kids! They don’t know what they have until they leave it, and then they desperately want to return. We welcome them!”

This, without a doubt, is the power of acknowledgment to engage and keep our best people—a critical part of the foundation of Grateful Leadership. There are many good ideas out there for engaging and retaining all your people and thereby achieving superior results. But there is simply no substitute for delivering heartfelt and authentic acknowledgments to your stakeholders WHENEVER you see the opportunity and feel they deserve it. And you’re creating a state of gratitude throughout your company that all of your stakeholders will feel and appreciate, and that will bring about unpredictably positive results. Join us on the journey! You will be glad you did.