Practicing Gratitude

November 21, 2023

Dr. Brene Brown concludes from her research that there is no joy without gratitude. “Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives,” she says. When we experience joy in our bodies, dopamine and serotonin are released, two chemical neurotransmitters that are heavily associated with happiness, well-being, and pleasure.

We can literally spread the joy by cultivating a practice of gratitude not only in our personal lives but in our workplaces as well. Integrating gratitude into your leadership and culture requires intentionality. It’s not a once a year event but an ongoing practice. Leaders must consistently model gratitude, and encourage its practice in their teams through recognition programs, open appreciative communication, and simple acts of kindness.

When gratitude is part of the organizational culture and practice, it creates a ripple effect that transcends hierarchy and department boundaries and fosters collaboration and support, creating a stronger, more resilient organization.

Developing Your Own Personal Gratitude Practice

We worked with a young mission-driven startup on developing culture strategies to support its high growth and helped the co-founders develop their own personal gratitude practices, including the following:

  • Writing personal gratitude notes before the year end. The co-founders wrote personal notes of gratitude to each and every member of the team. It caused them to slow down and reflect on the year and the contributions of the individual, and it was not tied to a performance review or other reward. The gratitude notes were heartfelt, personalized, and personal. And the team members appreciated receiving these handwritten notes.
  • Leading by example. We coached and reminded the co-founders to demonstrate gratitude in their day-to-day, in interactions with their leadership team, their employees, clients, and stakeholders. When the team saw their leaders express gratitude, it set the tone for a culture of gratitude.

Create an Organizational Gratitude Practice

We also supported the startup’s development of organizational gratitude practices. It’s not about having an “attitude of gratitude” but in developing habits, rituals, and behaviors that incorporated gratitude into their programs and day-to-day practices. The company implemented the following:

  • Gratitude Wall / Board – A simple “Gratitude Wall” allowed team members to give a shout out to each other.
  • Employee appreciation programs – A more formal annual award was tied to the company values and acknowledged the one or two team members who’s actions “moved the needle” for the company. The leaders gave gratitude when presenting the award.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition programs – A monthly peer nominated recognition program gave props to team members who lived the company values. The nominator presented the award to the winner, highlighting the actions that supported the company values.
  • Incorporate gratitude into performance review – Managers were coached to remember to incorporate gratitude into their performance reviews and weekly check-ins.

Gratitude takes intention for it to be a practice. We hope that you take the time this holiday season to develop your own personal and organizational gratitude practices. How do you practice gratitude?t