Last week, friends and families around the United States celebrated Thanksgiving. It is a distinctly American holiday that I happen to love. Thanksgiving reminds all of us to give thanks, to show gratitude, and to embrace friends and family. In our family, I have a niece who insists that all of those gathered take a turn during dinner to talk about what they are grateful for. It puts everyone on the spot. Some have admitted to planning ahead. Few seem to relish it at the time. But my niece is charmingly insistent. Remarkably, it’s always one of the highlights of our family dinner.
Thanksgiving reminds us that gratefulness needs to be shared. Yes, we can all choose to be grateful in our hearts. We can journal about our gratefulness. We can spend time talking to ourselves about the specific things for which we are grateful. All of those things are good. Science supports the notion that these activities are actually good for our mental health. But how much more powerful it is when we show gratitude? Showing gratitude inspires others and relieves stress. It makes others stop and appreciate things that they may not have thought about.
Showing gratitude can have positive impacts beyond our personal lives. It can impact our professional lives as well. Here are three specific ways project teams can show gratitude to improve performance, team effectiveness, and happiness.
When project teams work together, they have a choice. They can choose to operate from a mindset of scarcity, always worrying about acquiring the best resources. Or they can be grateful for the team they have, and work on developing that team to its fullest potential.
Teams can choose to be grateful for difficult teammates because they often think of ideas that others haven’t considered. Or they can sulk and complain about how difficult someone is. I’m not saying that we should be grateful for, or ignore, inappropriate behavior. I am saying that we can choose to give thanks for the opportunities that may be presented when inappropriate behaviors arise. And we can take advantage of those opportunities. We can be grateful for the personal growth that comes from dealing with adversity.
Teams can choose to be grateful for the progress that has been or they can choose to focus on missed deadlines. I’ve written before about using deadlines effectively. Teams must get clarity early on about the deadlines that simply cannot be missed. Some deadlines are just a guideline to ensure that teams are making progress. Other deadlines are critical. You can choose to let go of the ridiculous notion that a project schedule is essential for success. Focus instead on getting the project done as effectively and smoothly as possible.
Create a thank you process for celebrating the completion of activities.
When teams complete activities, how is that event recognized? Some teams may choose to use standing meetings as a time to announce that something has been completed. If so, celebrate that accomplishment.
If you are not using standing meetings, and are co-located, do you have a thank you board on a wall somewhere that announces when activities are completed? Or, can you use a texting thread to celebrate accomplishments?
When milestones have been reached, are you celebrating with the team? Progress is important. People want to work on winning teams so make the team feel like they’re winning!
Be actively grateful, rather than passively grateful.
Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most preeminent thinkers in the world today. His highly accomplished daughter, Kelly, is following in his footsteps. They have been researching the idea of turning passive questions into active questions. You can read more about that in this Business Insider article on daily questions.
Goldsmith reportedly begins every day answering a long list of questions about how he is doing. Rather than passive questions, such as, are my goals clear, he uses more active questions, such as did I do my best to set clear goals. The idea is to move people from a point at which they blame someone else for not setting clear goals to looking in the mirror. We all need to take responsibility in our own lives – for setting our own best goals, for our own progress, and for our own happiness, relationships, and health.
Maybe we should all ask ourselves if we did our best to show gratitude? Maybe teams should include that question in their meetings. Showing gratitude is active. It’s not quiet and passive and confined to our hearts. It’s bold and inspirational. And it makes us better people. It improves team performance.
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