Gratitude Separates Good Leaders From Great

Let the record show that we have cheered for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a professional American football team, since our arrival in Florida more than two decades ago.

So, to say I was as shocked and amazed as anyone when the team signed superstar Quarterback Tom Brady last year would be an understatement of epic proportions.

When the team won the Super Bowl in their home stadium, with Tom Terrific at the helm, I wanted to test our water to make sure hallucinogens hadn’t seeped into the aquifer over the course of the season.

Recently, our Bucs traveled to New England, where Tom set the record for the most passing yards in the history of the National Football League.

While dutifully impressed with this accomplishment . . . more than 80,000 yards and counting . . . it was his post-game comments that provided insight into his character and had me taking notes:

A quarterback can’t do anything if guys don’t catch the ball and guys did a great job catching for me the last 22 years,” he said. “All of them which I hope felt a little piece of happiness tonight because everybody contributed.”

The comment was heartfelt, displayed humility, and served as another example of how expressing gratitude is a character trait that separates good leaders from great.

Quality of Expression

Mind-numbing volumes of data exist touting that expressing genuine appreciation is a valued technique for promoting engagement and boosting morale among a team.

We can agree with the science behind the intent; it’s the genuine part that gives most leaders trouble.

Blanket statements such as “Thank you for all you do” and “I appreciate you” are a glance in the right direction, but never achieve the extended level of trust and confidence that true engagement demands. They’re not specific, leaving the audience unfulfilled and clutching to an unanswered question.

For example, when someone offers “I appreciate you”, my instinct is to respond, “For what?”

Thank you for appreciating me . . . makes me feel warm inside to know that I matter.

Offering specifics or details adds depth to the expression, an emotional connection capable of inspiring me to do more.

Without those specifics, I’m forced to rely on personal judgement to decide what to focus on next. 

Even Tom Brady started down a familiar path in his post-game comments, stating that he has been blessed to be around some amazing teammates. Everyone says that. Throw it on the pile with “It takes a village” and “No one is an island.”

But then he displayed his true character by referencing a very specific, personal bond shared with his receivers, one based on trust and confidence.

He acknowledged throwing the ball as only one side of a shared equation. Someone had to catch it on the other end . . . success depended on joint accountability. When it came to accepting credit for having achieved a milestone, he deferred to this reality in his statement, extending his personal wish for each receiver to share in the happiness of the moment.

That spoke volumes to me.

Boosting Gratitude

There are steps you can take to boost the quality of your appreciation and recognition, enhancing efforts to engage your team, and making gratitude your ticket from good to great:

Do Your Recon

Understanding . . . and comprehending . . . ways to express gratitude among your team begins with doing a little pre-work.

New hire paperwork, an annual review, or the kick-off to a new year are great opportunities to solicit information and preferences from individual team members.

Focus on items that fit into plans for personalizing future gratitude or recognition efforts. Everyone appreciates receiving a gift card to a grocery store or supercenter. Same thing for a prepaid credit card. Both represent an extended effort on your part and communicate gratitude.

However, investing the time and energy to choose a gift card from a specific vendor or outlet from a personal preference list communicates something beyond gratitude.

It demonstrates empathic appreciation for what matters most to the individual, something that can most definitely have a ripple effect among the team.

Excellence is in the Details

Something inspired you to express gratitude. Follow through on the specifics of that initial impulse to add pragmatic value to the experience.

Approach gratitude with the same commitment you would any other performance criteria.

For example: A fond farewell for a loyal guest or customer would extend beyond a simple “Thanks” and “buh-bye.

More likely, you will include a personal and heartfelt sentiment such as, “Thank you for choosing us once again, Mrs. Thompson. Your niece is going to love the gift you’ve chosen for her, especially since yellow is her favorite color.”

Applying that approach into a work environment opportunity may sound like, “Thank you for all your help tonight. The way you kept your cool during the rush, organizing plates so everyone could focus on their own execution made all the difference in the world. It was amazing, and I really appreciate it.”

A simple approach predicated on communicating simple details.

A Culture of Everyday Gratitude

A leader’s commitment is to extend trust in an organization’s values and beliefs beyond a personal investment and use it to influence the behavior of others.

Taking steps to establish a culture of Everyday Gratitude can bubble up incredibly positive results in unexpected ways.

Incorporate methods for everyone on the team to express and share gratitude with each other. Community bulletin boards, internal communication channels, and handwritten Gratitude Cards are all great ways to perpetuate a genuine sense of appreciation throughout your environment.

Naturally, this begins with role-modeling expected behaviors. Include elements from your organization’s branding, core values, or a cherished mantra to strengthen inclusion of overall values and beliefs.

Grateful For a Personal Touch

Gratitude must become synonymous with greatness if we are to continue promoting growth and happiness among those looking to us for guidance.

Embrace intimacy and resist the urge of convenience and conformity. Technology and social media applications have made it quick and easy to communicate sentiment through likes and other packaged responses.

The other day I saw a notice for someone celebrating 35 years with their organization.  It received a ton of reactions and comments, most coming from the pre-populated ‘Congratulations’ button. Again, thank you for the sentiment . . . you could have very well ignored the announcement altogether.

But how much longer would it have taken to type in ‘Congratulations, Tony’? The simple inclusion of a name generates a more meaningful connection to the moment.

Role Modeling Gratitude

To paraphrase Tom Brady, a writer can’t do much of anything without an audience of readers. In closing, please allow me to role model appropriate gratitude and say:

Thank You to everyone who has visited and enjoyed Tall Tim Talks. Special thanks to our site’s 99 Followers . . . a small, but powerful group.

I deeply appreciate your loyalty and personal commitment to exploring the simplicity of perspective and discovering ways of conquering the challenges of today’s society. You inspire me with your comments and feedback, which has influenced not only the look and feel of the site but directed content to where it is needed most.

You have my deepest and most genuine appreciation.

Cheers! to your continued success and many more Talks to come.

This is Tall Tim, and I am At Your Service!

2 thoughts on “Gratitude Separates Good Leaders From Great

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s