Do you recall a time when a leader showed real gratitude and how it made you feel?
As the holidays begin in earnest and we pause this week for Thanksgiving, we at Milestone Leadership thought it would be the perfect time to do a little personal storytelling on the topic of gratitude—and how it relates to leadership. We have so many things to learn from watching others, not the least of which is the power that results from someone freely expressing gratitude to those around them. Our three stories are brief, but the leadership impact from each example has continued to ripple outward for years.
“I remember visiting my uncle’s cabinet shop as a young man. There was something attractive about the smell of cut wood, the varied grains and colors yielded by each unique tree and the beauty of a finished custom wood piece. When I was old enough, my uncle offered me the opportunity to work part time. I was quite excited and eager. That eagerness was not nearly enough to offset my lack of experience.
“My pre-start imagination had me immediately creating beautiful pieces of cabinetry and furniture but that imagery was quickly replaced with reality on day one when I was handed a push broom and asked to sweep up the mountains of sawdust covering the floors. The closest I got to building anything on my own that first year in the cabinet shop usually came as I systematically stacked scrap pieces of wood discarded by the carpenters doing the real work.
“Surprisingly, if frustration existed at all, it waned quickly as I was consistently reminded of the importance of my role. I distinctly remember the culture my uncle encouraged. It was one of gratitude. Not just the minor thanks now and again. There was genuine gratitude expressed regularly by many of those carpenters when I would clean up around them, or grab the exact tool they needed and hand it to them before they asked. They would talk about how grateful they were I was part of the team and specifically why and how my contribution mattered.
“This gratitude was a powerful behavior that made the mundane more than just manageable. That culture of gratitude made us all more productive, engaged…and left us feeling valued.
“In our pursuit of new skills and knowledge as leaders, it is often easy to overlook some of the more important tools readily at our disposal. Gratitude is a powerful leadership behavior that requires cultivation and nurturing, but does not require anything exceptional other than attentiveness and sincerity. As a Leader Worth Following, if you really care to see yourself and your team thrive, double down on the gratitude quotient.”
“Many years ago, my husband worked for a man named Craig. At the team’s Christmas celebration, Craig presented a gift to each member of his team that had been selected especially for them. As each person was presented their snow globe, Craig explained why that particular snow globe reminded him of the recipient.
On his travels throughout the year, Craig watched for snow globes that caught his eye for the way in which they made him think of members of his team. He purchased them from around the world and saved them up for this special occasion. His explanations included touching descriptions of admirable qualities he saw in each member of the team.
“While I don’t recall if Craig specifically used the term gratitude, his appreciation was obvious. I definitely heard it in his spoken admiration and his clear affection for each of them. The resulting sprit of goodwill among the team was undeniable.”
“Years ago, I had the privilege of being mentored by a leader with high level executive responsibilities. He was so gracious to offer me regular slots of time to explore my career growth and leadership challenges.
“One thing that sticks out to me is that regardless of his busy schedule, he would always make time to meet with me. He was someone who deeply valued mentoring and I greatly benefitted as a result. He never indicated so, as he would not talk about himself much, but I always suspected someone had instilled the value of mentoring into him early in his career. He role-modeled for me someone who handled the organization’s resources and employees with great care. He recognized the weight of the responsibility he had—and he handled it with grace.
“I learned a great deal from him. He never used the word ‘grateful’, but his actions always displayed a deep respect and appreciation for the work he had the privilege of doing. I will always be grateful for my time under his wing.”