A Time for Thanks

At roughly 10 a.m. each day, I write down three things I’m grateful for.

It sounds kind of sappy, but somehow I got into the practice a few months back. I keep a small notebook near my desk, and about the same time every morning, no matter what I’m doing, I pivot to my notebook and jot down whatever comes to mind.

It could be something as simple as “that killer pepperoni pizza from Saturday” to “Chicago summers” to “having a great work environment.” Other times, I write down names of people that make me happy or circumstances that I’m lucky to be in.

Whatever three things make it into my notebook for that day, I make sure to consciously think about it and write it down into a notebook. Not a laptop, not a tablet, not a smartphone. For whatever reason, the slow intentional act of putting pen to page helps the content of what is written carry more meaning.

As many of us get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving this month, it’s worth remembering appreciation and gratitude aren’t just once-a-year activities that happen over turkey and gravy with family and friends.

The simple act of gratitude can be a powerful thing — more powerful, I would argue, than most of the comprehensive talent management strategies we write about each month.

Many talent leaders stress the importance of creating organizational cultures packed with the top-of-the-line perks: the lavish workspaces, on-site gyms, free food, dry cleaning service, etc.

No doubt getting the best talent requires a bulletproof recruiting apparatus that maximizes social media and sound interviewing. And making sure that talent stays around most definitely requires companies to have competitive compensation structures.

Still, sometimes the best talent strategy is the most simple and the most overlooked. It’s gratefulness. It’s appreciation. It’s saying, “Thank you.”

In fact, a 2014 report by TINYpulse showed that such extravagant employee perks might be all for naught if not accompanied with a simple “thank you.” The report also showed that employees who received recognition were much more likely to rate their workplaces as fun. According to the report, 70 percent of the employees credited their peers for creating an engaging work environment.

As it turns out, that fancy, in-office bar does very little if it’s complemented with harsh, ungrateful management. Even in a relatively nonstressful work environment, failing to show your employees simple appreciation can have massive consequences.

Gratefulness can also have personal benefit. Ever since I started my little appreciation activity, I’ve noticed I react differently to things that would otherwise stress me out. Perhaps it’s the perspective that comes with reminding yourself of the small things you’re grateful for that better prepares you to deal with otherwise stressful movements.

Practicing appreciation can also help your relationships with others. The more you’re able to share gratefulness with, the better. That goes for entire organizations. Can investing in a comfortable workspace show employees you appreciate their hard work? Of course. The same goes for free food in the cafeteria and a nice bonus at the end of the year.

Nevertheless, if those efforts aren’t paired with more simple, personal acts of appreciation, employees might miss the message.

So this month, start taking the time to appreciate those around you. The more people in your organization that make gratitude and appreciation an everyday occurrence, the more grassroots impact it will have.

Trust me. You’ll thank me later.