As I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family this year, I'm prepared for the conversation. A conversation that is the same and yet different with each passing year.
A conversation turned tradition in our home, a conversation where everyone is expected to participate, and a conversation that allows us to check-in with ourselves and one another.
This conversation – our tradition – always starts with the same question:
What are you most thankful for?
A simple question, yes, and a very powerful one for the connection that it fosters. Openly sharing love, gratitude, and recognition with the people who are most important in your life in of itself is a deeply personal and, at times, vulnerable experience.
To truly answer this question, personal reflection is a hard requirement.
When asked, you must first look back and ask yourself:
Looking back, I picture myself, a young girl at the table in my booster seat. At that age, my answer would have likely centered around my Barbies, the cranberry sauce, my cat…Naturally, all of things that made my world so sweet and fun.
In the years that followed, my reply of course would mature to focus more so on the people in my life – their impact and the memories we would create with one another.
So, as my family goes around the dinner table this year and openly shares our own thoughtful introspection, everyone gains a greater appreciation for one another – not just for the kind sentiments shared, but also for seeing how each of us have personally developed year over year.
Preparing for the conversation this year, I find myself not only thinking about the family members sitting down with me at the table, but also the dedicated team members whom I collaborate with each and every day at Fierce.
Bringing Family Tradition To The Workplace
This year has been more demanding than ever at work and, similar to the family tradition I shared above, I truly have learned the importance of creating space with team members at work to share specific appreciation and sentiments.
One of my favorite exercises is gathering a small group of individuals together, and focusing on one person at a time. One person is chosen, and the others go around the circle and share one specific thing that he/she appreciates about the person. The person receiving the appreciation is only allowed to say "thank you"...and receive that praise. Time and time again, I see relationships deepen in that space. It often brings me to a teary-eyed state, because I am so honored to be in the presence of these amazing people and to have the privilege of sharing in the journey together.
I have learned that we all need those moments — me especially. As leaders, we need to focus on the positive, and the impact and create moments with profound appreciation. This fuel is needed when tackling the tough challenges and taking on new and demanding endeavors. I've learned it is my responsibility to share and be vulnerable. And most importantly, create that space for it to happen.
Now, imagine if you were to ask a member of your team: What are you most thankful for?
Imagine how much you would learn about this person by simply asking this one question.
The Thanksgiving holiday in particular provides a great platform for leadership to spread warmth and thanks to colleagues in a way that can both strengthen your workplace culture and nurture the relationships that are essential to collective success.
Below are four ways to help you and your team to have this dialogue at work:
1. Take time out to connect.
The end of the year can be a hectic one filled with deadlines and quotas. The idea of taking time out of people's already jam-packed schedules during the day might seem daunting, however, the break can actually rejuvenate a team's spirit and make this last push more enjoyable.
Take your team out to lunch or throw a holiday potluck — kick back and make a point to enjoy each other's company. This will remind your team that you realize they are working hard and you value what they do.
2. Take the lead.
While out at that same lunch or during that holiday potluck, lead by example. Share and recognize how you've grown in the last year and how your team's efforts (remember, get specific!) have impacted that growth.
This recognition goes a long way and the numbers don't lie. Combined data from Gallup and Globalforce shows 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt efforts were better recognized and that 78% of employees said being recognized motivates them in their job.
3. Write it down.
Can't find the time to connect with your team in-person? There isn't anything quite like receiving a handwritten note. Now is a perfect time as any to put pen to paper with what you really want to say.
The time it takes to pick out the card, write the message, and even the physical act of handing it to your recipient shows you value and care about them.
In the busy bustle of day-to-day life, sometimes we just give a generic thank you. The problem? It can become routine and lose its impact. Make your thank you more meaningful by explaining how the person's action made your day that much easier or better.
When you say 'thank you,' also communicate why someone's kind words or actions really made an impact. Be specific. Paint the picture. You may be surprised by how much those who helped you enjoy hearing the effects they had. No thank you is too small, so share away!
4. Don't get distracted.
The mentality toward the end of the year can be to keep your head down and finish strong. While it's important to not lose sight of your team's deliverables — their hard work is always worth mentioning.
If you have regular meetings with your employees, take time to verbalize why your thankful for them. Better yet, before the meeting, spend a little time and look at the projects they've been working on so you can bring specific examples of ways they've impressed you this year.
If you don't typically have these one-on-one meetings, ask if you can schedule one with your employees and use the time to boost their holiday spirit.
Holiday Tradition Or Daily Routine?
While the holidays call for extra special attention to the importance of appreciation, why not practice gratitude throughout the course year? I'm talking 24 / 7, seven days a week.
At the office, expressing thanks shouldn't just happen in the months of November and December. Make it a daily practice within your organization by making it a part of every meeting — be it a one-on-one, smaller work gatherings, or larger office meetings. Start each of these meetings by first expressing your appreciation — it could be as simple as a thank you for showing up, or a shout out to an employee going above and beyond.