A Growth Mindset and Gratitude
While conversation about gratitude is typically concentrated at the end of the year, there are many personal and organizational benefits to cultivating a gratitude practice throughout the year. I want to look at this from each perspective in a little greater depth.
Let’s start with how making a habit of gratitude helps a leader with their own leadership development. When I work with clients on emotional intelligence, one of the topics we focus on early in our work is the concept of leading self. This can include everything from self-awareness about managing energy throughout the day to practicing reflection and seeking optimism. These latter two are where gratitude is clearly connected. When a leader authentically expresses or even just reflects on what they are grateful for, they are building an understanding of what they value and what is meaningful to them. This feeds their ability to act and lead with integrity because they are clear on what matters most to them. People are drawn to this type of leader, but more on that later.
If you are a leader and gratitude isn’t currently a regular part of your days or weeks, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or just another thing on the to-do list to start a gratitude practice.
Micro journaling in as little as two minutes per day is one way to start. Many leaders who I work with like to do this at the start of their day to instill a positive mood and a hopeful attitude for the day. Others find that reflecting for just a few minutes at the end of the day and jotting down a few items that creating meaning and a sense of appreciation in their day can be a good way to unwind, whether that is immediately before bed or as part of a transition from work to home (especially if both are in the same space!).
Make your gratitude practice part of another daily or weekly ritual by habit stacking. You could pair gratitude reflections with brushing your teeth, making coffee or commuting. Even these small moments can become meditative as you consider what you are grateful for in that moment.
Schedule a gratitude window on your calendar just like any other meeting. Use this time to reflect and send messages of appreciation. Your team will appreciate the recognition of small and large accomplishments whether they are being recognized for helping a client or a colleague or finishing a meaningful project.
That’s the personal side of a gratitude practice. As a leader, there are also team and organizational benefits to leading with gratitude. People naturally seek out others who see potential and have hope for the future. People want to follow leaders who know how to show appreciation — those who authentically feel and express gratitude.
In addition, being hopeful creates space for a growth mindset. Typically, hopeful leaders don’t see challenges or setbacks as permanent which would be characteristics of a fixed mindset. Instead, they believe in the team’s ability to learn from mistakes and overcome obstacles. This fosters a culture with a high degree of psychological safety.
There are several leadership practices that contribute to a reputation and legacy of gratitude. Here are a few that you can try:
I recently joined a staff meeting of a leader who I have been working with for several years. He opened the meeting with sharing appreciation for the contributions and accomplishments of several team members. This shows awareness of the effort and results that the team is achieving. You could take it a step further and invite the team to share kudos with their peers. After all, the leader can’t be aware of every interaction and this approach gives teams a chance to practice appreciation and build a sense of what is important to them.
Reflecting on lessons learned during or after a project to review the successes and failures offers leaders another opportunity to express gratitude and share a growth mindset. A leader can model this by expressing appreciation for raising concerns and working with the team to create plans for how identified issues will be addressed or avoided in the future. These types of conversation build trust on a team which is another hallmark of psychological safety. But even more than that, they provide an opportunity for the team to celebrate each other.
So as you observe the flood of gratitude expressions at the end of the year, consider how you can take that good will and incorporate it in your days and weeks throughout the year. Make a commitment to establish a personal gratitude practice as well as finding ways to make gratitude part of your team culture. Watch how relationships evolve, trust builds and your own perspective shifts as a result.
For more on why gratitude and mindset matter and are leadership competencies, here are a few of my favorite resources on the topic:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Two Minute Mornings by Neil Pasricha
This article was also published on Medium.