February 10 – An attitude of gratitude

“Gratitude conserves the vital energies of a person more than any other attitude tested.” (Hans Selye)

“Please and Thank You”. I was taught that these were the Magic Words as a child. When I wanted something, I used the word please, and when I got something, I said “thank you”. This attitude of gratitude was baked in to me at an early age, and remains with me today.

I once worked for a director who was known to be a bit of a tough guy. Many thought that he was harsh and demanding, that he didn’t care enough about people, and only wanted results. In the 4 or 5 years that I worked for him, I attended many meetings that he did as well. His reputation for being demanding was well earned; he expected those who worked for him to perform, and to do so at a high level. He wasn’t one to pull punches when things were done poorly and expectations weren’t met.

I remember one meeting that was particularly uncomfortable. He was still a manager, and I was in his department. There were a team of 6 of us who had rolled out a new process, and it failed miserably in our first attempt. He called a meeting, and within the first 30 seconds, said to the team “well, we all sucked at that one.” The meeting remained uncomfortable as we did a post mortem on the process, and identified what we needed to do differently going forward. The work assignments from the meeting were heavy. At the end of the meeting, with all of us feeling down, he smiled and looked at us all. And then he ended the meeting the way I heard him end every meeting I ever attended. He said “Thank you all.” It wasn’t a perfunctory gesture, he truly meant it. Although things hadn’t gone well, he showed gratitude for our hard work. I left feeling energized. I had the list of things to do, and I knew our team had to perform better the next time, but I also knew that our efforts were appreciated.

There are many things that I, as a manager and leader, have modeled after that particular director. The one that applies today is that I do my best to end every meeting, and every conversation by thanking the person or team with whom I have met. True, some of them are meeting with me because I am the boss, and they don’t really have a choice whether to attend. But they, like everyone else, get to make a choice every day as to how dedicated they are to their work. They can run through the motions and get by, or they can put in that extra effort. My hope is that by showing them gratitude, they will continue to choose to show that dedication to their effort, because they know the effort is appreciated.

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