Is it me or has Thanksgiving been overrun by our national pastime–holiday shopping? Apparently, we are too busy to spend a single day reflecting on our blessings. It should come as no surprise; gratitude went out of fashion years ago. But more accurately, as most of us became removed from the challenge and hard work of producing our bounty, our gratitude diminished and like most things that come easily, we began to take it for granted.
This change of attitude is not just a cultural problem; it’s a leadership problem too.
As leaders, we can become removed from the team’s challenge and hard work and in turn; our gratitude can wane. We get too busy to acknowledge the hard work being done on our behalf. Perhaps our leadership gratitude has gone the way of our cultural gratitude—squeezed out by other priorities.
As a Soldier, I was lucky to lead in an Army that takes gratitude seriously. As an officer, I was empowered to express gratitude on behalf of my unit and our Nation. I could give awards for service and achievement that expressed my gratitude as well as that of the chain of command. As a general, I had the sad, sacred duty of expressing the gratitude of a grateful Nation to the loved ones of our fallen.
I have lots of experience saying thanks officially and I have witnessed the power of formal gratitude; still, no token of appreciation resonated like an unexpected, sincere and personal expression of gratitude. As my responsibilities increased, I too became removed from the challenges and hard work of my Soldiers. Yet, my rank didn’t diminish my duty to understand their sacrifice or excuse me from saying thanks. I had to make getting to the right place to say thanks in a meaningful way a standing priority. I visited people, wrote notes, called meetings, planned events and used every power at my disposal just to say thank you and you should too.
Don’t let your professional gratitude go the way of Thanksgiving—squeezed out by other priorities. The privilege of your position will only insulate you from the challenges and hard work of your team, if you let it. Keep your leadership priorities straight. Make time and take time to say thank today and every day of the year.
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