Gratitude in Leadership

As a leadership executive, are you looking for a deeper way to give thanks to your team?  Read on:

As a special feature blog, Leila Entezam spoke with strategy and performance expert Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel, author of “Communicate or Die,” about a powerful tool managers often ignore: appreciation.

 "One of my favorite axioms in life is this: 'What you appreciate gives you power.'  I call it an axiom because it cannot be proved or disproved, but in my experience it simply works for those who do it.  As a leader, if you adopt this axiom by extending it to gratitude for the people around you, it can create a world of opportunity in allowing your teams to shine.”

 Extensive research supports this principle. Did you know:

  • “The number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work last year”(1)

  • “Organizations with recognition programs that are highly effective at enabling employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs.”(2)

  • “In these environments, (where opportunity and well-being are part of the culture) strong manager performance in recognizing employee performance increases engagement by almost 60%.“(3)

  • “Praise and commendation from managers was rated the top motivator for performance, beating out other noncash and financial incentives, by a majority of workers (67%).”(4)

  • “Recognition is an important psychological need. Employees who know that they will receive recognition for acting on the brand promise will have a strong incentive to do so.”(5)

  • “Our research finds that those organizations with the most mature employee recognition approach are 12 times more likely to have strong business results.”(6)

“Acknowledgment is a magical tool,” Dr. Zweifel added. “It sounds like a past-based conversation: You appreciate something someone did yesterday. But in fact it’s a future-based conversation. Whatever you acknowledge in a person, you can be sure that they will do more of the precise things you acknowledge them for.”

"My wife is brilliant at this: When she says, 'How good of you to empty the dishwasher this morning,’ she can be sure I’ll empty the dishwasher over and over again.” (Women leaders have often been highly skillful in praising men for the very things they want those men to do more of in the future.) 

"In my experience, those managers who routinely appreciate and acknowledge team members for specific actions or behaviors have reaped rich rewards: their teams regularly go beyond the call of duty and would do almost anything for them.”

Organizations have standard means of appreciation like Employee of the Month awards and service credit acknowledgements, but how can they take it a step further? 

Take Amazon for example.

Amazon is ranked as one of the top customer service companies by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). A few years ago, ForeSee Experience Index ranked Amazon highest in overall customer satisfaction in its survey with a score of 90, the highest ever recorded by the firm.

Amazon shipped over 5 billion items worldwide through Prime in 2017. The company employs 566,000 people worldwide. It takes those kinds of numbers to move that many items and do it with such satisfaction. One could argue that without such manpower, much of what Amazon does today would not be possible.

So how about an Amazon commercial focused on thanking its team?

Employees are shown in their work settings completing different tasks in different countries: customer service, order fulfillment, shipping, management. As you see the employees busily bustling about, Jeff Bezos’ voice narrates the commercial, “Here at Amazon, we take pride in consistently being top ranked in our customer service as part of our promise to you. And we are grateful for having amazing customers like you that inspire us to meet that mark.”

"But we recognize that none of that would be possible without our team of over 500k Amazon employees worldwide. So today, we want to use this special opportunity to thank them.  Amazon team, this goes out to each and every one of you. Thank you. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for making Amazon the company that it is. Every day, you show up with a passion for what you do, and a commitment to your customers and to each other, and for that we thank you!”

Imagine that. Imagine a trillion dollar global company spending marketing dollars to thank its team. How would you feel about a company that does that?

Dr. Zweifel offers a tip: “Exercise your muscle of appreciation and acknowledgment. On at least a weekly basis, determine what you can appreciate about your life. Identify whom to acknowledge or thank, and for what specifically, and take the time to express your gratitude."

ENGAGE:  Want to learn how to create a message of gratitude for your team? Click here to contact me and let’s get started. 

GO FURTHER:  Want to engage with Dr. Zweifel? Read free excerpts of his books here ( ) and connect to Dr. Zweifel on LinkedIn or Facebook

Read further on the bullets cited above here:

1) Gallup, Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, 2001

2) Bersin by Deloitte, The State of Employee Recognition, 2012 

3) Towers Watson, Turbocharging Employee Engagement: The Power of Recognition From Managers, 200

4) McKinsey Motivating People, Getting Beyond Money, 2009 

5) Gallup, 2013 State of the American Workplace 

6) Bersin by Deloitte, The Employee Recognition Maturity Model, 2012