Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Importance of Gratitude. Added Thanks and What It Has to Do with Work


It’s that time of year. Everyone jumps on the gratitude bandwagon. Like kids threatened by Santa watching every tantrum and toy lobbed at their little brother and modeling their behavior accordingly, us adults say a halfbaked “I’m grateful for my health and family” around the Thanksgiving table. All while mostly just hoping that the Bears win today (well, maybe not this year.) We’ve all been there.

So why the additional gratitude-pushing and what does it have to do with work? Work is traditionally the place where the least amount of gratitude tends to take place. You might not be coming home after a long day actively grateful for work. However, by incorporating gratitude into work, work gets better and it gets easier.

I know. Enough with the unicorns. Year-end activities, every client wanting to utilize those last hours, close out the year and now you’re asked to be actively grateful. (whisper) make her stooooop.

But come on, it will be fun!

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I will tell you two things that gratitude is not, two things it is and then five things I am grateful for around here. Thanksgiving edition: with T-rex themes!

Gratitude is not about perfection.

In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Gratitude doesn’t mean you are happy with every aspect of every day of your job. Gratitude is about living with the professional imperfections and being ok with it. When perfection isn’t the goal, being grateful for small work wins and acknowledgments are easier.

Gratitude isn’t a trait. It’s mental muscle memory.

Unlike photographic memory (not me) or being taller than the 100th percentile (me), people aren’t born with an innate ability to be grateful. They practice it. Like a mental pushup, it’s awkward and hard at first but it gets easier quick. And the payback of a totally ripped sense of gratitude is pretty spectacular.

Before gratitude:

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After gratitude:

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Gratitude is a chance to see your professional self in a new light.

When you rephrase your inner conversations about work and make it about gratitude, you subconsciously build your professional self-esteem. Let’s talk examples:

You were tapped to be a part of a big pitch and you volunteer to own the deck, merging everyone’s sections and make sure they look good. You are a bit of a perfectionist and it ends up taking way more time than you thought.

  1. Woe is me: I haven’t slept in days and now I have to change it again. Oh PowerPoint, you’re THE WORST. Oh is that wine?
  2. Grateful: I can sleep when I am dead. (Kidding!)
  3. No, really, Grateful: I’m trusted with not only being a part of a really important pitch but also have an opportunity to create a deck that’s cleaner, nicer and more cohesive than what we have. Something that could be leveraged in other opportunities.

Although a bit awkward as a Stuart Smalley affirmation, try this approach out for a spin. I think you’ll end up buying it.

Gratitude is perspective.

Perspective is easier to have when you have been around the professional block for a while. Having worked for different companies in the same field for many years make it easy to know when you have it made and remind yourself of how good you have it when things are less than ideal. I am not saying someone right out of college can’t have perspective, just that it’s easier to come by after some years of in the trenches.

Lastly. Gratitude for your career and the people who got you here are in the end not really about you. Ironically - if you practice gratitude - it changes YOUR work life (and beyond) in millions of tiny little ways. So to practice what I preach, here are five unselfies about what I am grateful for at Rightpoint:

1. Gratitude towards employees.

Some refer to it as appreciation. Some as WOWs. Some of us just get left with the fuzzies that someone took the time to say thanks: specifically and publically. In the end, it’s all gratitude and it’s something Rightpoint does extremely well through awards, through perks, and through WOW walls.

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There is a pretty great FastCompany article HERE about the power of gratitude at work and it’s pretty spot on what we do here.

2. Tell me what can be better (no, really, do.)

This ties back to the whole idea of gratitude not being perfection. Around here, top down, people genuinely want to know how they can improve. REALLY. Not some limp end of year survey but ongoing communication online, in groups and one on one. Like this breakfast with our owner Brad having direct conversations about what can be improved. I am also thankful for free bacon.

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3. We’re all grown-ups.

While being treated like an adult at work seems like a simple thing, it’s not a given as many of us know. Being trusted to manage my time, my projects, my client and…big one…my life outside work makes me SO grateful. So does wearing sweatpants. (So yes wearing sweatpants at work = grown-up.)

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4. These guys

My coworkers are the best. Smart, hilarious, weird and compassionate, they make it so that I prefer to come to work even though I can work from home when I need to.

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5. I think you can. (I think I can)

Sometimes you need someone smarter than you to believe in you first so you can go ahead and believe them. I am grateful for Rightpoint believing in me first. You are literally reading an example of this right now. Prior to Rightpoint I knew the company blog (or any company communication) as being Big Words By People With Big Titles. They needed to be so perfect and would be edited for weeks. The results were predictable: the search for perfection ended up producing sparse blogs and communication without much activity, a lot of six syllable words and never putting much stake in the ground or expressing much personality. Here? I was not only reminded that I have a voice but told I should also use it. Repeatedly.

People might argue how smart of a message that was but here we are. So thanks Rightpoint for giving me a voice in and outside this blog and the authority to use unicorns, T-Rex memes and gifs as I deem appropriate.

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Happy Thanksgiving.