Five Practices in Gratitude That Will Power Up Your Leadership « McClarie Group

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Five Practices in Gratitude That Will Power Up Your Leadership

Having worked with hundreds of executives over the years, I’ve discovered the critical elements of effective leadership. Vision, powerful presence, and commanding communication are all at the top of the list. However, the most compelling attribute of leadership is one’s ability to embody a spirit of gratitude. This is true whether you are leading a complex, corporate organization or you are leading your son’s sports team to victory.

A spirit of gratitude shifts your perspective…for the better. Rather than seeing a difficult employee as a problem, you notice latent talents that you might help develop. Instead of allowing stress to place you in a reactionary stance, your mind is relaxed, and you are able to develop creative solutions. Giving thanks is a powerful tool for motivating others (and yourself!), inciting innovation and increasing your leadership effectiveness.


Here are five gratitude practices that have shaped my perspective and leadership:

1. Identify resources that grow you
When you choose a leadership path, you do so knowing that you will constantly need to learn and grow. As most executives will tell you, their development into senior leadership didn’t stop the moment “Chief” was added to their job title. They discovered that enduringly effective leadership requires constant change. My personal resource in 2016 has been a series of videos featuring Dr. Brené Brown in interviews with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday television show. I also found inspiration from Simon Sinek, author of the book Start With Why. I was fortunate to have heard him speak at a conference this year and also found great value in this TED video. I trust you will find his insights to be as powerful as I have.

2. Dive into daily personal stretch assignments
If you’ve worked with me before, you know that I advise my clients to seek stretch assignments at work. Typically, those stretch assignments are in the form of key projects that are outside your usual scope. Those projects catapult you into the unknown and force you to get uncomfortable as you navigate a new way of doing and being.Personal stretch assignments are similar. They are smaller, daily practices that make you wiggle just a little bit. For example, I am a recovering perfectionist. I convinced myself that perfection was an essential requirement for success. I pursued it with vigor. But it became an obstacle because absolute perfection doesn’t exist. So, every day I stretched myself to let things go. It was painful. It was uncomfortable. But the risk was worthwhile. The world didn’t fall apart. Others didn’t think less of me. In fact, my effectiveness increased.

3. Learn something new every day
It might be a word, a concept or some other discovery. Naturally, there are days when a new learning isn’t immediately clear. The busyness of day-to-day life gets in the way after all, making it difficult to see what you learned besides how to juggle multiple priorities. But if you take a moment to reflect, you’ll discover that learning comes from the most unexpected places.Earlier this year, I visited with a new client who could easily identify critical problems in her organization–a key leadership skill. However, she was less skilled at making the situation better. Specifically, she lacked the generosity to give others (or even herself) a hand up. She unconsciously squashed creative thinking as well as opportunities to collaboratively resolve challenges her team faced.It wasn’t until later that evening when I was recording my daily learning that I reflected on my behavior and recognized occasions when I behaved similarly. This insight helped me change how I approach my work with clients.

4. Write down three things you are grateful for
Before I go to bed, I contemplate my day and list at least three things I am grateful for. I keep an on-going log on my cell phone, which allows me to recall positive moments when things aren’t going well. It is a positive reminder of all that I have to be grateful for. Beyond this, maintaining a daily record of what I am thankful for allows me to be more purposeful in my attitude and actions. If the day starts off challenged or takes an unexpected turn, I review my list, and it helps me shift my focus toward openness.I’ve found that even on days when I struggle to come up with three things to be grateful for, there is still something positive or enlightening to be discovered. When an occurrence, person or issue makes you think, “Ugh, this is terrible,” ask: What is the gift or lesson? You can discover points of gratitude, even in the hard, funky stuff.

5. Perform three acts of kindness each day
We live in a very me-centric world where selfies and WIIFM conversations permeate most everything we do. This year, I sought to actively think of others by performing three daily acts of kindness. My actions weren’t expensive or dramatic. Kindness, for me, isn’t about offering material objects, but rather about giving unexpected experiences that brighten someone else’s day.For instance, I might send an out-of-the-blue text, offer a compliment or give kudos to someone. If there is something I can do to make someone else’s day better, I do it.This year has been an interesting personal journey. Every challenge I faced provoked me to be a better person and every moment of discomfort has been well worth it. As this year comes to a close, I am humbled and grateful for it all–the tough stuff, the incredible stuff and everything in between–because today, I not only have greater joy and fulfillment, but my interactions are more alive than ever before.

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