Science has shown us that developing grateful attitude has the surprising benefits of strengthening our immune systems and lowering our blood pressure. It lightens our aches and pains, leaves us less prone to depression, and even lets us sleep longer and more restfully.
Gratitude is even a way to cope with change and build positive relationships.
With such a powerful tool available, isn’t it time that we consciously begin to cultivate a culture of gratitude within our not-for-profit workplace?
The thankful person brings to the table the precise qualities that can help us take our work to a new level. They respond positively to things and are optimistic about outcomes. They spread joy and happiness. They are more connected to the world and eager to make it a better place.
Gratitude is More than Saying Thank You
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude goes far beyond just asking people to appreciate their co-workers and say thank you if they are given something. It has broad-reaching applications that spread far beyond your world of work and into the broader universe.
Some researchers believe that being grateful actually connects people to their evolutionary history where a respect for others was essential to survival.
Dr. Robert Emmons has written extensively on the subject of gratitude. A psychology professor at the University of California, he says building a culture of gratitude allows us to be mindful of the good things in our lives. These are the people who stop and smell the roses, who run through the autumn leaves, who place a high value on their human relationships and spread goodness and kindness in everything they do.
Such people do not take their work or jobs for granted. They are engaged with their work. They do not come in on Monday morning longing to do something different.
Within my own workplace, and within the not-for-profit projects my company takes on, we talk a lot about the culture of gratitude. From first-hand experience, I see that it strengthens team member relationships and we are more appreciative of each other’s efforts.
The More Gratitude Exists, The More Powerful We Are
The more we engage in gratitude, the stronger the bonds become and the more powerful we are. This theory, when applied to human relationships, was tested by researcher and psychologist Sara Algoe at the University of North Carolina. In her study, she looked solely at couples who were practicing gratitude within their own homes. The respondents were consistently more connected to their partners and happier and more satisfied with their relationships.
Another study linked a culture of gratitude in a workplace with enhanced success. Scientists at the Greater Good Center discovered that grateful workers actually handled their resources -- including financial resources -- better.
There is no underestimating the powerful force of gratitude in our workplaces and the way it affirms that there are good things happening in this world and that we are part of them. We do not have any sense that we are fighting the battle for the betterment of the planet alone; we know we are strongly connected to the work of others and their efforts.
Increasing Your Association's Culture of Gratitude
But how do we grow this culture of gratitude? What steps can be taken now to make a difference in our not-for-profit organizations? How can we better appreciate our members and empower them to embrace our work more passionately? How can we let our staff, our board, and our volunteers know how much their efforts are appreciated?
Here are six ways to promote gratitude in a non-profit organization:
- Be authentic. Being grateful doesn’t mean spreading around false flattery or over-playing the gratefulness card for every little action. It means picking up on specific, extraordinary efforts of your team members or an outstanding character trait and praising it. Make it spontaneous and in the moment; you don’t need to give certificates at banquets. You just need to notice it as a manager and make appropriate, sincere compliments.
- Be respectful of your staff and volunteers by clearly communicating your intent and giving them the tools and training to do the job you ask of them. People can sense the emptiness of telling them they matter, and then leaving them devoid of support and resources. They also feel valued when you invest in them and help them grow their skills so they can better serve the organization.
- Keep your own gratitude journal and encourage others to start each day by taking a quiet moment to do the same thing. Write down at the start of each day something that you are grateful for. At one point we tried a communal journal where every morning people spontaneously wrote something on the board if they felt like it. It was tremendously powerful to the point that we still do it. Gradually I started keeping these things in a larger corporate journal and sometimes when we get together for a volunteer recognition program, I bring out some of the gems.
- Gratitude is a holistic practice. You cannot just be grateful for one small aspect of a person and dislike the rest of them. If you do, you have a recognition program, not a gratitude attitude. Look for and understand the total package value of each person who works with you. Sometimes what you see will surprise you.
- Be sensitive to different personalities and how they respond to gratitude. Not everybody feels good being pulled out of the pack for excessive praise. Perhaps they would be more grateful for a quiet word of thanks and receiving two tickets to a performance or exhibit they are interested in. Expressing gratitude is not a cookie-cutter exercise. It is a gentle, individual exercise that must be applicable to the personality of the person receiving the thanks.
- Your board and your managers must express total buy-in to creating a culture of gratitude. If they do not, all the staff and volunteer efforts in the world will fall flat. You need to get their buy-in from the start and ensure that they receive gratefulness just as the others do.
Paula Morand is a ”dreaming big and being bold” leadership expert and brand strategist, who brings her vibrant energy, humor, and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth, and impact in a more bold fashion. 24 years, 27,000 clients, 34 countries, 15 books, former radio personality, 11x award-winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee. Paula’s bestselling books include: Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything, Dreaming BIG and Being BOLD: Inspiring stories from Trailblazers, Visionaries and Change Makers book series. Her newest release is Bold Vision: A Leader’s Playbook for Managing Growth.
For more information, visit paulamorand.com.
If your association has a story to tell regarding it's own Culture of Gratitude, we'd love to hear it. Leave your story in the comments or email us.