Can Gratitude Increase The Productivity Of Your Team?


Often when we are part of a team, or in fact leading a team, we forget the little gestures that can often make a big difference – like just sating “Thank you” and showing our appreciation for the work and support a colleague has provided to us.

You don’t need grand gestures to show people why they matter and that you care.

I recently came across this article by Joe Hirsch and thought it made a great point.

Good leaders are constantly looking for ways to boost their employees' sense of engagement and shared purpose. But you don't need grand gestures to make people happier or more productive. In fact, the biggest payoff may come in small packaging.

The handwritten thank you note.

It's a practice that has gained traction with executives at major companies. During his tenure as CEO of Campbell's Soup, Douglas Conant delivered close to 30,000 handwritten notes to employees at all levels of the company, from senior executives to maintenance staff. Mark Zuckerberg made it his personal goal in 2014 to share one "well considered" thank you note with a Facebook employee each day. And Indra Nooyi, going one step further, even sent letters to the parents of top Pepsi executives.

Research shows that the simple act of expressing gratitude can literally change the way we feel. In one study, participants who spent ten weeks writing just a few sentences about things they were grateful for experienced greater optimism about their lives. Not only that, they also engaged in healthier behaviours, like exercising more regularly and getting more sleep.

Expressing gratitude can also boost productivity. Researchers at the Wharton School found that a group of university fundraisers who received hearty thanks from the school's director of annual giving made 50 percent more fundraising calls than a second group that went unrecognized.

When the leadership team at a major healthcare services provider asked how they could improve their culture, it was suggested that senior executives take on a daily gratitude challenge for two weeks. At the start of each day, leaders spent several minutes making a short list of the people in the company who did something to impact them personally or improve the organisation as a whole. Next to each name, they jotted down specific examples of what these individuals did and why it mattered.

For the next 10 to 15 minutes, leaders wrote thank you notes to each person on their list. One SVP thanked his assistant for keeping him up on track with his appointments. A sales director acknowledged the efforts of two members of her sales team who worked over the weekend to get a pitch ready by deadline. Much to the surprise and delight of the recipients, the notes--written on thick cardstock and packaged elegantly--were delivered in person by the leaders themselves.

Turns out a little gratitude goes a long way. In a follow-up conversation with leadership, they learned that the gratitude challenge had made such a splash that several employees began a campaign of their own. A few members of the marketing team created a "gratitude box" where employees could drop notes of appreciation singling out their colleagues for acts of kindness, support and above-and-beyond performance. The notes were read out loud at the start of a weekly team meeting, and the public recognition fostered goodwill among employees.  

So how could you get going with Gratitude

A meaningful thank you note answers three big questions:

1. How did you help me? The most compelling expressions of gratitude are usually the most detailed. Be specific about what this person did to move you to write about it in the first place. Avoid generic statements or platitudes and reach for simple but heartfelt expressions of thanks.

2. What would life be like without that? Think about gratitude as a process of addition by subtraction. How might have things turned out without this person? What would be different about you or your life? When you start to imagine all the things that could've gone wrong, you won't easily take for granted all the ways things went right.

3. Why did this matter? When someone helps us, we aren't the only recipients. Think about others who might also have benefited from this person's actions. List them and how their lives were improved as well. By recasting your gratitude in larger terms, the person receiving the note will experience a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that he or she made a difference on a grander scale.

Expressing gratitude can be difficult, and composing handwritten notes takes time and effort. But as research and experience shows, even small things can have big benefits.  

Want some assistance building the culture of your organisation? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or check here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.