Community//

Why Cultivating Gratitude as a Leader Matters

One leader's story of how gratitude transformed into inspiration, contribution, and connection

If we’re celebrating the holidays consciously, the season always asks that we stop and give thanks for what has meant something to us in the year, followed by giving joy to our loved ones, and completed by a celebration and our intentions for a new beginning.  As I think about the order in which those holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day take place, I see how fitting it is that we start with thanks, as gratitude opens the door to all the rest. 

In thinking about this year and my career transition that’s been evolving since 2016, I can’t help but look back and feel incredibly grateful for those people with whom I worked that helped me get here.  For me, the overwhelming support I have received has not only been in the form of words of encouragement but more importantly, in people giving me opportunities.  Looking at the path that has led me to my current position, running my own business as a leadership coach, I see how it was paved with others taking chances on me.  This realization has also inspired me to do the same for other beginners because I have seen in my career that sometimes it’s the leaders who believe in you who show you that it’s time to start deeply believing in yourself.

As I reflect back on this, what helps me appreciate the magnitude of what these people did for me is the recognition of the other options that they could have taken that may have been easier for them.  In today’s corporate environment there are so many things to “just get done” with as little friction as possible.  Hiring someone with more experience, a more established product or program, or a larger network of resources would have been easier in many of the opportunities I took on as a beginner.  Similarly, as the leader of a team, saying “No” to ideas that may require more time, a new way of thinking, or some extra steps may seem like the only reasonable option in a fast-paced company when you’re focused on the bottom line. However, the leaders I was working with all chose to act from their value of developing others. This allowed me to be authentic in my values of constant growth, learning, and taking on new challenges. And so they got the best out of me.  They stopped to really listen to the mission of my work, the structure of how it would be approached, and agreed to take the risk of hiring a beginner.  Over the years, as I have worked to develop others, I truly appreciate the contribution my leaders, mentors, and first clients made in my life. 

I now find myself being asked to give opportunities to other beginners. While my time and capacity is limited these days, these are not easy decisions for me because I understand the impact it can have to say “No” or “Yes” to someone asking for a chance.  There are questions I ask myself to get clear in these situations. These are:

  • What would it mean to this person if they succeed in their goal?
  • What chance do I have right now to really make an impact in someone’s life and their belief in himself/herself?
  • What are the consequences if things don’t work out? Does the risk of investing in this beginner have repercussions that I would not be able to handle or would it merely be an inconvenience and require some patience and direction on my part? And am I in a position to give that right now without overcommitting myself?
  • How will I feel knowing that I have contributed to another’s growth?
  • How might giving this person a chance potentially help the greater good?

My hope in sharing my story of gratitude and these questions is that we not only take a look at what opportunities we’ve been grateful for, but that we intentionally evaluate and seek experiences that we know will cultivate even more genuine gratitude and connection in our work lives.

One key way to live in more gratitude in the professional realm is to take the time from our busy schedules to really consider the deep and lasting impact that we can have on others if we choose to invest in them.  Listen to what the people you lead want to do, where they want to grow and develop, and show them it’s possible by giving them chances to succeed when they demonstrate a willingness to step into new roles.  It goes without saying that certain aspects of the jobs we are doing do have to be perfect, especially when these impact our stakeholders.  But I do believe we can take off some of the perfectionism in service of creating more progress through learning and trying new ideas.  It is my belief and has been my experience that knowing the difference you made in someone’s growth is far more rewarding than knowing you avoided a few inconveniences in your process. In all of my work with leaders and teams on peak experiences and values, I have yet to hear someone say their proudest achievement was avoiding failure. In fact, it’s taking the long way around that usually creates the deepest levels of gratitude, fulfillment, and purpose, some of the most motivating emotions we humans can experience.

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