The numerous physical and emotional benefits of gratitude are well-documented. In particular, researchers like Robert Emmons and Martin Seligman have demonstrated the link between gratitude and happiness.
That link makes intuitive sense. As the saying goes, “you are what you pay attention to.“ If you’re focused on and grateful for the blessings in your life, you tend to see the world through a more optimistic lens. If you’re focused on the ways in which life isn’t good enough, you’ll easily convince yourself that it isn’t.
Over Thanksgiving, we’ll likely (and rightly) be focused on our gratitude for friends and family. But we should also take a moment to cultivate gratitude as business leaders as well. This can not only have us feeling happier at work—it can also make us more effective.
I’ll show you what I mean.
Gratitude at work begins with a recognition of the unique contribution of each and every stakeholder that impacts or is impacted by our business.
We can be grateful for investors because it is their capital which enables our enterprise to function, reach scale, and compete in the marketplace. Gratitude for investors makes us more likely to take careful consideration in steering the business as we seek to insure a return on their investment.
We can be grateful to the environment for providing a stable and habitable home for civilization, which is a prerequisite for any economic system in which businesses thrive. Gratitude for the environment makes us more likely to invest in long-term climate solutions that are in our own best interest, ensuring the viability of our society and our economy decades from now
Okay, those ones were easy. But it’s possible to cultivate gratitude for any stakeholders. Yes—even those stakeholders.
For instance, we can be grateful for our competitors because it is the competition that they provide which pushes us to improve our product, understand our market, and generally stay at the top of our game. Gratitude for competitors makes us more likely to appreciate what they do well and to learn from them, which is critical for our success.
We can be grateful for activists because it is their activism that keeps us honest. Gratitude for activists makes us more likely to listen to their concerns and take effective action to mitigate liability and live true to our values.
We can be grateful for our customers. Now, this one seems obvious—without customers, we wouldn’t have a business in the first place, right? Still, I am often amazed (and concerned) to see how many companies fail to foster gratitude for their customers. The pitfall here is obvious. The will to consistently provide great customer service, generate innovative solutions, and navigate the twists and turns of business ultimately stems from an appreciation of the customer.
Hopefully you get to sign off of work this Thanksgiving and focus on family and friends. But if you have a few moments over the holiday, consider for yourself: What stakeholders have I taken for granted this year? How might I recognize and share my gratitude for them and for their unique contribution?