Character Creates Opportunity® – Gratefulness: Monday, December 16, 2013

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, an important topic to address is the opportunity we have to recognize the efforts of those around us.

For many people in a position of leadership in an organization or business, this time of year is filled with opportunities, both formal and informal, to recognize the efforts of our teams and individuals for the past year.  There is a great deal of time and planning that leaders put in to written recognition, formal year-end reviews, year-end awards, etc. to ensure the efforts of the team and specific individuals do not go unnoticed.  Leaders typically work hard at understanding the unique ways that employees like to receive recognition and what type of awards have significant meaning to the individuals.  These recognition efforts are a critical part of building a strong sense of commitment and engagement from team members. 

As a business leader, I could always count on allocating a fair amount of time and effort into completing year-end reviews and year-end recognition ceremonies as it was such a valuable time to express appreciation and strengthen the team after a long, hard year and begin the preparation for another year ahead.  In today’s challenging economic environment, providing recognition for employees and teams who are facing aggressive competitors, significant pricing pressures, and other difficult situations, the recognition from leaders becomes even more critical to sustaining the health of an organization.

An important principle that we can anchor our efforts to build and strengthen our character during this time of year is gratefulness.  This is an important time for leaders to demonstrate through spoken and written words and specific actions, how grateful they are for the efforts of their teams over the prior year.  In my own experience, these were great times to re-engage with team members and reflect on sacrifices and express appreciation when the flow of the business was slowing down a bit and you could more readily enjoy the moment.    

However, I can also relate to (any maybe you can too) how that smooth and effective recognition plan is executed in the office, gets trampled at home with the craziness of the holidays, traffic in the malls, those last minute gifts, and visits with friends and family.  It is an all too common occurrence that we let the “busyness” of our home life put us in a position where we miss the opportunity to express gratefulness to those we care about most.  After discussions with a number of people, I can see that I am not alone in this reality.

Faced again with the sobering reminder that no accomplishment in the workplace could ever compensate for a failure at home, it is important that we set time aside during the holidays to express gratefulness to the individuals closest to us.  I am sure many leaders can specifically cite what type of recognition individuals on their work teams desire…one likes recognition in front of peers, another just wants money, while another would prefer recognition to be sent up the chain of command.   However, do we as parents, brothers/sisters, children, husbands/wives, know what specific ways our family members feel loved and appreciated?  Is it a nice note or word of encouragement, a special gift, a warm embrace, or just some one on one time?  I would encourage all of us to better understand the specific ways our loved ones feel appreciated so we can have a greater impact in our efforts to express our gratefulness. 

From experience, if we just “wing it,” we can be “way off” on this topic about how others like to be appreciated.  So, we should do our homework and ask, or find an interesting way to discover the ways our family members feel loved and appreciated.   There are a number of resources we can use and one I have found to be very helpful is Gary Chapman’s New York Times Best Seller, The Five Love Languages.  When you and those closest to you take this fun quiz, the answers may surprise you.  Either way, you will have the knowledge to be able to maximize your efforts to express your gratefulness to those closest to you as we close out another year.

Expressing gratefulness is an important aspect of building and strengthening character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to build strong relationships.

What ways have you found to express gratefulness to those around you?  Please share a comment below.