As an executive and entrepreneur, I find it’s sometimes helpful to frame our emotions in a manner that is familiar to us in corporate strategy. After all, goals are goals no matter where they reside and goals cannot be achieved without a plan. In this case the goal is to develop gratitude in the work place. So, what does the business funnel look like for gratitude and what is the perceived out put?
If you’re not familiar with the research there is plenty available that demonstrates the positive effects of gratitude on corporate success. “Though research on gratitude has exploded over the past two decades; results so far link it to more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers.” (Newman, K., 2017)
If gratitude casts the widest net it’s probably helpful to understand what it is exactly and how it’s done? The good news is gratitude is an easy concept to understand. By definition, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Now, understanding and doing are two totally different issues. If the latter was easy there wouldn’t be a whole industry built on helping people be genuinely grateful. For the sake of this post, gratitude will be reduced to a simple category – the little things. Most of the little things revolve around being human. If a work environment is strictly business the company will, most likely, never reach its full potential or, if it does, it won’t remain in that position for long. Work is very personal and it should be treated with that level of respect. For example, something as simple as saying hello and goodbye to colleagues as a group and as individuals is a simple activity that forces both parties to acknowledge the presence/existence of the other. If days and weeks are going by where those connections are not being made the bonds required for greatness are not being nurtured. This applies to many other types of interactions such as praise that is specific and both public and private, small talk that gives insight into personal lives and non-work interactions other than quarterly or annual retreats (i.e. no trust falls). While none of these are significant on their own, the mindfulness and consistency required to do them daily yields a body of work that will create genuine respect among colleagues and an environment of good will.
The little things are where real leaders build the bonds that lead to this loyalty and dedication. It is important to note that this applies to people at all levels of the org. Leaders can be junior employees or the C-suite. It is when they permeate every part of the organization that the magic happens and the stage is set to move to the next level of the funnel (i.e. good will).
Good Will is defined as “friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude” and it occurs when individuals feel their manager and the company, as a whole, are in it together. This is a necessary bridge to the next stage of the funnel which is Safety. Google did an audit of over 120 groups in their organization (link to Project Aristotle NY Times article) and found a direct link between psychological safety and productivity. The Gratitude stage can take weeks or months but once the foundation is laid Good Will and Safety can happen almost overnight. Safety is when everyone feels they can contribute without fear of negative consequences (i.e. ridicule). This is felt at all levels of the org and this is when real productivity and innovation take place. This is when people can find their stride and actual team work begins. Team work is an important concept here because Project Aristotle (in addition to others) also discovered that a team working together will, almost always, outperform a team with one or two stars. This is even more profoundly true when you look at long-term success and what happens to a company when a star leaves.
If this funnel can be implemented, a company is poised to make the dramatic gains in productivity and innovation that yield exponential increases in revenue from the bottom of the funnel. It takes a lot of self-awareness and consistency from the leaders but it is, as author Jim Collins says, the edge that can take a company from good to great (or, for that matter, from shitty to great).
As a side note, I think it’s interesting to look at Collins’ funnel for Level 5 leadership and cross-reference it with the gratitude funnel. If one does not successfully implement the gratitude funnel is it really possible to become a Level 5 Leader? I would argue it isn’t.