The other day an email popped into my inbox from HostGator, my web-hosting company. I get marketing emails from them from time to time, so I didn’t pay much attention at first. But the headline caught my eye: “Want instant business karma? Try philanthropy.” As it turns out, the entire email was devoted to gratitude. Of course, this is the season, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving after all. Most of the marketing we see this time of year, though, is screaming Black Friday deals and free shipping. It’s a mixture of sales hype and holiday cheer designed to make us feel good about emptying our wallets and pocketbooks.
But the HostGator email made me pause. So did REI’s well-publicized decision to close its stores on Friday and give all of its employees the day off. Maybe, just maybe, this gratitude thing is catching on. In the HostGator email there was a survey asking, “What’s the best way to show customers gratitude during the holidays?” Respondents were given three choices: Donate to a charity chosen by your clients, host a community holiday party, or send personalized cards or notes of thanks. Which one do you think got the most votes (including mine)? Sending personalized notes of thanks was by far the most popular choice (66 percent). The other two garnered about 18 percent each.
But before I cut and paste, let me leave you with a few points about giving thanks that I was reminded of recently:
- Giving thanks does not require a special occasion or holiday. Learn to give thanks every day—for the many blessings you receive and the small acts of kindness you might otherwise take for granted.
- Giving thanks does not happen by itself. Gratitude needs to be cultivated and practiced. Be intentional about giving thanks, especially in those moments when you don’t feel particularly grateful.
- Giving thanks is not a silent activity. Unless you tell people thanks, acknowledge their work or express your appreciation, how will they know?
From “Giving and the high performance leader” (Dec. 6, 2012)
In his book “Design a Life that Works,” Michael Alan Tate suggests that giving is a key characteristic of high-performing leaders. He tells of a business leader he was coaching who had incredible technical knowledge, plenty of experience and lots of drive, but he lacked the spirit of generosity. As a result, this leader wasn’t able to motivate his team and achieve the results he wanted.
Tate argues that successful leaders subscribe to four “give factors”:
Give thanks…for what you are most grateful for at this time.
Give credit…to those most responsible for your success, helping you and being there for you.
Give back…with greater frequency in a selfless way.
Give up…or let go of something intentionally to reach a new level of success.
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When I think back on the CEOs I’ve worked for in my career, it’s the giving ones that stand out. The ones that encouraged staff through their words and deeds, demonstrated compassion and trust, and honored each employee’s dreams and aspirations.
What does generosity look like in a leader? Here are nine giving “to-do’s” from an article by Bruna Martinuzzi on the Mind Tools website. See how many of these you do.
- Give people a sense of importance.
- Give feedback, not criticism.
- Give people visibility.
- Give anonymously.
- Know when to forgive.
- Give encouragement.
- Give opportunity.
- Share your knowledge and experience.
- Give moral support.