As we approach Thanksgiving, many of us are reminded of the things we are thankful for in our lives. For many of us this thankful posture extends to our professional life. If you had the opportunity to build your business from the ground up, you probably have a deep appreciation for the those first few clients that allowed you to do what you love. This appreciation continues toward those first few employees. As maturing business owners, we can sometimes forget how much of an impact an attitude of gratitude can have on our business.
Gratitude is defined as a feeling of appreciation or thanks. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).
The word ‘feeling’ is key here. When you are moved by appreciation, it usually spills over and allows others to perceive or feel this appreciation. As a culture, we are taught to always say, thank you; we end emails with it, we say it before leaving the office and when someone does something for us. We tend to think that showing gratitude simply means saying these words, and while ‘thank yous’ are a good way to show gratitude, the words can lose their meaning when there isn’t any meat behind it.
All too often, organizations think they are doing a great job showing appreciation, but when you ask their employees, the message isn’t being received. A feeling of appreciation can have a big impact on your business culture. In 2013, Glassdoor published findings from their Employee Appreciation Survey. In this survey, they reported that over 80% of employees said that they “are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.”
Many of us have been taught the mechanics of gratitude, but gratitude goes beyond the motions, it’s an attitude we develop – and when it’s put into practice, it’s quite contagious! Cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your organization requires action, not just words. Here are some of the ways we’ve seen firms demonstrate an attitude of gratitude:
- Giving Back. Firms that have an attitude of gratitude spend time giving back to their community. I’m not talking about paying to sponsor an ad – it goes deeper than that. In a firm that values philanthropy, you can find their employees and owners in leadership roles within their communities, giving in-kind exchanges, volunteering or participating in dedicated days of service. By far the biggest commitment we have seen is with an accounting firm that established its own foundation. We hear and see a lot of this in very large companies, however, it’s rarely seen in local, independent accounting firms.
- Stewardship. Stewards are the keepers of the organization. They own the responsibility of leading the organization and their people, not just managing them. Stewards show appreciation by caring about the future and the legacy of the organization. Read more about the qualities of stewardship.
- Investment in Developing Employees. Spending the time to properly develop and teach people is a deep sign of appreciation. It tells them you value them and their contribution and skillset. It also tells them you believe in them. Accounting firms that do this well don’t just provide the technical training. They spend a significant amount of time mentoring people and allowing them to shadow so they may learn from one another. This cascades throughout the organization until it becomes innate.
- Honesty in communications. Whether it’s difficult feedback that someone needs to hear or you have a superstar knocking it out of the park, when leaders can be candid and specific with their communications, their people tend to respond better. Whether or not a thank you is involved, employees feel appreciated when you take the time to give the feedback.
- Intentional gratitude. It’s not just a phrase sprinkled into every conversation or email, it’s an acknowledgement of a person’s contribution to your success. Be sure you take the time to recognize people for their efforts both in word and in deed…and be specific!
Does your firm have an attitude of gratitude?