The Gratitude-Gap

Gratitude–a word that isn’t often heard in business, especially with our focus on adapting to the “new normal” of Covid-19.

Leadership blind spots arise from one of two places, according to bestselling authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton:

  1. A skill or set of skills that a leader hasn’t yet learned, or
  2. An assumption or myth that a leader mistakenly hangs on to.

In either case, a blind spot creates an area of vulnerability in a leader’s capacity to lead effectively.  Consider the gratitude-gap blind spot.  Since the groundbreaking work, done in the early 1990’s, by University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman in the field of Positive Psychology, more and more professional and personal satisfaction has been tied to the experience of gratitude.

We now have an unprecedented five generations in our workforce and according to research by Gallup, the younger workers among us are adamantly requesting meaningful work that produces positive results and more frequent feedback from their leadership on their progress. 

Many of their managers know they should be expressing more appreciation to their workers on a regular basis but feel uncomfortable doing so.  They feel they might be viewed as insincere or that they should reserve these expressions for only those who “truly” deserve it.  Enter the gratitude-gap in many workplaces. 

Here is an excellent article on some of the research-driven benefits that eliminating the Gratitude Blind Spot creates for personal and professional experiences in both leaders and those who work with them. 

There are even some major health and financial implications that might be just what the doctor ordered, especially given our current experience of the corona virus and its potential impact.

It might be tough to express thanks right now with so many threats at our doors but according to plentiful research, that’s just what we should be doing, both personally and professionally!

Gratitude has two main parts: the affirmation of goodness and the attribution of that goodness to something or someone outside of ourselves.  First, we recognize that, even in the midst of grave challenges, there are good things in our lives.   Maybe they are simple things like a beautiful sunset or more complex things like a meeting that produces surprisingly positive results. Second, we rightly attribute that those good things originate from somewhere outside ourselves.  We had no part in creating the beauty of that sunset and that meeting produced positive results because of the collaboration of a team of people, not solely from our own efforts.

According to researchers, getting in the habit of expressing appreciation to other people can have a HUGE positive impact on our own lives and on the lives of others.

Here are just some of the benefits an “attitude of gratitude” can have:

Feeling gratitude magnifies our experience of the positives in our lives, allowing us to celebrate the present and block the negative emotions that damage or destroy our happiness.  So, grateful people tend to be more generous, helpful and compassionate and feel more socially connected to the people they care about.  They also experience feelings of isolation and depression less often.

A lot of research points to physical benefits of grateful people.  They tend to have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure and experience of stress and they tend to be more mindful about making healthy choices. Gratitude enhances effortful goal-striving, stronger team cohesion and improved engagement. 

Research from the University of Pennsylvania finds that when leaders show gratitude to their employees, those employees are 50% more successful.  And finally, research from Northeastern University indicates that gratitude is associated with greater financial patience, a trait that may be in great demand in the months to come!

So, remedying a leader’s blind spot may be a simple as saying “thank you” early and often!


Falling slack on the gratitude-gap?

Brush up your interpersonal skills with our excellent training!  Find out more at our 5GAcademy page!

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