Gratitude can give you a more positive outlook on life, and managers who thank their employees can potentially see a boost in productivity. However, after a particularly stressful day, week or fiscal quarter it can be difficult to find the energy to say thanks. How do successful people take the time and effort to be thankful? What are they thankful for in their careers?
Thank people who complement your strengths
"When my first security services startup accepted funding from a seasoned venture capital investor, it turned out to be one of the most impactful and important decisions of my life,” said Steven Muntean, CEO, Overwatch Capital.
“The investment paid dividends for our organization and my mentorship provided by the institutional investor helped transform me from the typical entrepreneur to a seasoned P&L executive. One of the most important lessons learned from my mentor is to surround yourself with people in your organization that cover your blind spots."
Employees who rise the fastest in organizations are often the ones who see the merit in having difficult conversations about their career with mentors and bosses.
“I’m thankful for the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with my supervisors and mentors over the years, which inspired me and helped me grow professionally,” said Nancy Altobello, EY Global Head of Talent.
“For example, several years ago I was offered a new role that was an exciting opportunity, but at the time I was nervous and I didn’t think I could do it. When I spoke with my boss at the time about it, he looked at me and said, ‘Nancy, I’ve got your back,’ and he told me all the reasons why I was qualified for the role and why I should go for it. Dialogues like this gave me the confidence I needed to take on new challenges throughout my career.”
Appreciate your community
It pays to be respectful to your audience.
“Every job I’ve had has been a dream job, but running my current company is my favorite,” said Omeed Dariani, Chief Executive Officer, Online Performers Group. “I walk into an office filled with excitement every day. When we go to events, people go out of their way to meet us. All of that energy and positivity comes from treating people well and finding new ways to help people every day.”
Alex Tew, Co-CEO Calm.com, agrees.
"I'm grateful to be working on a product that is helping millions of people live happier and healthier lives. I'm also grateful to be working a product that is a viable business, which means we can build for the long-term. This year, in particular, was big for us in terms of growth and I feel very lucky to be doing what I love, with smart people that care about & share my mission."
Many people find it useful to take time to think about what job really fits them, and where they can leverage their strengths into opportunities.
“For the first time in 10+ years, I became an individual contributor, not responsible for managing a team,” said Jocelyn Hayashi, SVP, Key Accounts at MediaMath.
“The opportunity came to spend a month in London and help the newly launched strategic account management team to gain their footing while the manager was on maternity and, in parallel, pitch other clients on a new solution. The payoff: learning from bright colleagues in-person vs over emails and web conferences, getting to sit on the lawn with my family, watching Wimbledon while sipping champagne and, lastly, getting the opportunity to work on newly identified strategic projects.”
Brigitte Preston, Co-Owner and Principal of Design, lauckgroup, reflects on the impact of a large decision early on that set her up for success later in her career. "I am thankful that at age 21, I had the courage to leave my home in Belgium and move to the United States to pursue a career in design. Taking the leap of faith has shaped me as an individual and as a professional, allowing me to discover new potential in myself.
“I am also thankful for having a longtime business partner who is my complete opposite. She has taught me to use the left side of my brain, and this has made me a more thoughtful, less impulsive person."
Continuing education and reflection
Employee development ranges from formalized programs, to mentorship, to learning from stumbles along the way. Some of the most productive people seek out opportunities to continually learn, grow, and reflect.
“I’m thankful to be at a company that invests in me as an employee and individual,” said Lena Ellingboe, Sales Account Director, TeleSign, “and for having access to career development resources and mentors inside and out of the company. This year has been a year of new experiences, exciting travel, and ongoing growth. I look back at 2017 with gratitude and smile at the precedent it set for 2018!”
Successful leaders know that sometimes the best development comes from mistakes, and they recognize the lessons learned.
"I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to fail fast and learn from mistakes, as well as successes, along the way,” said Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer at GoDaddy. “I’ve had outstanding mentors and bosses throughout my career who gave me enough freedom to make my own mistakes while working with me to align my skills to meet company objectives.”
Jillian Lorenz, Co-CEO and cofounder of The Barre Code, agrees.
“Our best lessons have come from our most challenging times, so we have learned to embrace the chaos wholeheartedly knowing that something great will eventually come from it. We call them FINS (aka 'False wINS') and they may hurt at the time, but down the road, we are better because of them.”
Many people in large or small companies without formal training programs will take the initiative to continually increase their knowledge base.
"This year I'm more aware than ever, and therefore most thankful, for the free education you can find online,” said Rachel Hollis, founder and CEO of Chic Media. “Everything I know about business I learned from library books, YouTube videos, podcasts and a lot of trial and error.”
One of the best ways to show gratitude is to pay it forward to your community.
“This year I actively volunteered to share my areas of expertise with others,” said Pooja Krishna, cofounder at Maroon Oak, and a founder at Win Thinks Consulting .
“I mentored entrepreneurs and professionals on business growth, creating plans and using digital media in workshops and online, sometimes even one on one. In addition, I also taught entrepreneurship and job skills virtually to several hundred school students across the U.S.
“While my intent was to only help them, I was amazed by how much I myself absorbed from all of these interactions. I met with entrepreneurs who shared their stories and challenges, moms looking for help to recreate their careers, professionals who’ve struggled to stay current with the latest tech. The questions, ideas and thought processes of the numerous people I worked with this year motivated me to be more creative, think deeper and sharper in my own work and ventures.”
Jessica Childress, Attorney and CEO of children’s content company Juris Prudence, organizes free children's mock trial programs in low-income communities, offering book donations to organizations that promote youth literacy, and mentoring youth in Washington, D.C.“It is always reassuring to see kids who may have been labeled at risk or challenging children by education professionals approach me at the end of a Juris Prudence program and tell me that they were inspired by my book or the mock trial program and that they now want to be a lawyer,” Childress said.
“Those moments affirm that my company's social mission is the right one. I am very thankful for those moments.”