The Power of Gratitude

Of all the attributes successful people possess few are more important than a grateful heart.

Back in my days of working with the Dale Carnegie Organization there was a 50 something guy in one of our classes who looked very successful. He obviously had money, drove his choice of the many fancy cars he owned. He had houses (notice I didn’t say homes) around the world in which he could live comfortably. At first glance he appeared to have it all.

But it was never enough. He was one of the most unhappy and “relationship poor” people I had ever met.

The stories he told were in stark contrast to the ones told by a 30 something guy with 5 kids. It seemed as if every example from the younger man was laced with struggles and challenges that the older man knew nothing about. His stories were also filled with something else missing from the older man’s…a grateful heart.

He appreciated the opportunity every challenge presented him. He appreciated the chance to learn and overcome obstacles which he knew would better prepare him for the future. He found “the silver lining” in every cloud.

It was in that particular 12 week Dale Carnegie course that I learned about the true power of gratefulness.

The older, more successful appearing man in the 12 week program knew nothing of his gifts. He knew little of his actual strengths, and he had long ago surrendered his power to be happy.

The younger man’s thoughts were focused on appreciating what he had, not what he wanted. He was thankful for what he was able to earn. Thankful for his God given gifts that made it possible for him to support his family. Thankful for his one overcrowded home in a modest neighborhood and I suspect thankful every time his 20 year old car actually started.

He was happy and as far as he was concerned, one of the richest people on earth.

Now I ask you…which of those two men was the most successful?

You may find this difficult to believe if you find yourself struggling. You will find it hard to believe if you’re a “keeping up with the Joneses” type person. But your greatest happiness is within you, not in chasing what you’re without.

Practice gratefulness each day. Absolutely work hard for your dreams but make time each day to also appreciate what you already have.

If you find it hard to be grateful for what you have today it’s very likely you’ll find it just as hard to be grateful for what you may have tomorrow. It has been my experience that an ungrateful heart is also an unhappy one.

“Things” will never make you happy but the power of gratitude most certainly will. If nothing else, be grateful for that.

A Word of Appreciation

One of the easiest ways to maintain healthy relationships, with anyone, is to show appreciation. When you make it a point to share with people how much you appreciate what they have done it separates you from most other people who don’t show enough appreciation.

 

I’d be willing to bet that someone in your life has done something for you that deserves a simple thank you or a bit of appreciation. It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that you’re already aware of that person and fully intend to show your appreciation. But intending to show your appreciation and actually doing it are two very different things. 

 

Here are a few ideas for turning your intentions into actual actions. 

 

Call at least one person a day, everyday, to thank them for something. This might take a bit of thinking at first but pretty soon you’ll see the opportunities to say thank you are nearly limitless.  

 

Send out five thank-you notes a week. As powerful as a spoken thank you can be a written one is ten times more meaningful. Yes, an emailed thank you works but a hand written thank you means so much more. Poor handwriting is no excuse, print if you have to but handing out or mailing a written thank you can have tremendous impact on the recipient.

 

Don’t wait for someone to do something for you to show appreciation. Take the initiative and do something for someone every day and don’t let them discover it was you who did it. This is harder than it seems and I think it’s hard because it’s human nature to want “credit” for doing something good or nice. But do what you do for others without the expectation of appreciation or payback. When you expect something back, that is not appreciation — it’s a barter.

 

When you are appreciative, it makes other people feel like they want to do more for you, even though that was not your agenda. When we fail to show appreciation, it makes others feel like they want to do less for us. It makes them feel taken for granted. That’s never good.

 

Someone in your life could benefit from a word of appreciation this very day. Can you guess who it might be? Don’t guess, just start passing out appreciation as if it were free. The fact is, it is free but it is the most valuable free thing you’ll ever see. A thank you doesn’t cost anything yet it can mean the world to people who don’t hear those two powerful words often enough.


Don’t wait to show your appreciation. Do it now because a word of appreciation just might make someone’s day.

The No Recognition Zone

If you’re in a leadership position then you must know this absolute fact: people need and respond to recognition. If you’re actually going to lead however you must do more than know it, you must actively practice the skill of recognizing those you lead. 

 

People have needed recognition since…well since Adam complimented Eve on her choice of apples….okay, so that didn’t work out so well but you get my point.

 

It’s amazing to me that even though they know this fact so many people in leadership positions fail to recognize their people for their efforts. I guess they just get busy or they think their people already know that they are important to the organization. (I’ve used those two poor excuses myself)

 

But the most effective leaders are never too busy…or lazy, to recognize their people. They are incredibly intentional and consistent with recognition and compliments for their team. They make it a point to look for reasons to compliment; they make it a habit to recognize someone on an almost daily basis. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders create a culture of recognition within their organizations. They understand that recognition helps keep their people engaged and motivated. 

 

As a leader you simply cannot afford to fail in this area. You must set aside time in your day just for this purpose. I often ask leaders of organizations what their greatest asset is within their organization. They almost always say it’s their people. 

 

Then, in very nearly the next breath, they tell me that they don’t have the time to consistently recognize their people. When I point out that spending time on less important things while pretty much ignoring their greatest asset is not a great recipe for success they realize the mistake they have been making.

 

Don’t make that all too common mistake, plan some recognition time into your day. Encourage others on your team to recognize their fellow team members, make your organization one where even the little successes are celebrated. If the recognition is done with sincerity it never gets old. 

 

If your organization is known as a no recognition zone, well that kind of environment gets old pretty darn quick. 

 

So right now, reach out to someone in person, through a phone call or even an email and let them know they matter, let them know you recognize and appreciate them and their efforts. 


It truly takes so little time when compared to the value it will add to their day. So go ahead …do it now!

The Lost Art of Thank You Notes

So, in my last post I wrote about saying “Thank You.” As powerful as a sincere verbal thank you can be it’s magnified tenfold when it’s written down. So I want to take my last post a step further and suggest that you do more than merely say thank you, I’d encourage you to at least occasionally write your “Thank You” down, like in a note, with a pen, handwritten. Just like the old days.

 

I know that seems really old fashioned to a whole lot of people reading this and it may seem like a huge waste of time when you can just send a quick email or an even quicker text. But I assure you, it’s anything but a waste of time. 

 

You may think taking the extra five minutes to hand write a card and toss it in the mail (for those of you who have never done this “the mail” is those blue kinda curvy topped boxes you see sitting on street corners here and there) is a waste of time but I’m betting big time that if you received one you wouldn’t think it was a waste of time at all. You would appreciate, maybe greatly appreciate, the extra effort it took the person to send it to you. 

 

There was a time when I frequently suggested to people that they send 7 Thank You cards a week. I used to do that religiously; I’ve somehow gotten away from that and it’s truly a shame. People used to comment to me all the time about how much they appreciated the thoughtfulness. 

 

I still send a fair amount of “Thank You’s,” I just do it by email and I almost never hear a word about thoughtfulness. 

 

So I just went and bought a box of Thank You Notes (it was nice to see they still sell them in stores) and a book of stamps. It’s positively retro! I’m going to start slow and commit to sending one a week, every week. I’ll try to do more but over-committing is a sure way to kill any momentum I might develop.

 

Will you join me in rediscovering this lost art? No one’s handwriting is worse than mine so don’t try using that as an excuse; like those Nike people say… Just do it!


My grandfather used to sell cards in his store, I still remember a sign by the cards he sold. It said “Costs so little yet means so much.” Those words still hold true today; make a difference in someone’s life today, drop them a note and let them know they matter.


Two Little Words

Sometimes little things can make a big difference. Sometimes, when combined with another little thing they can make a huge difference. Such is the case with two little words, thank and you. 

 

Now “thank” almost doesn’t sound right alone. About the only way it makes sense is when used in a sentence like “remember to thank someone” or something like that. We can add an “s” to the word which makes it far more useful but all alone “thank” just doesn’t accomplish that much.

 

As for “you” well that’s another matter. With just in slight change in the tone of our voice we can make “you” mean very different things. We can say it with a smile and a friendly look and it tells a person that we think they are someone special. Or…we can say it with a growl and a stern look and they almost instinctly know that whatever we say next isn’t going to be meant as a compliment. 

 

It’s when we combine the word “thank” with the word “you” that magic begins to happen. When spoken together with sincerity and conviction “Thank You” has the power to change someone’s day. It has the power to let them know that they matter, that the things they do are noticed, and that they are appreciated.

 

Authentic Servant Leaders seldom if ever miss an opportunity to say Thank You when appropriate. They do not take acts of kindness for granted. They do not take good work for granted. They do not take extra effort for granted. They do not take their people for granted. 

 

If you have not used those two little words together in the last day or so (maybe the last hour or so) then I can virtually guarantee that you have missed an opportunity to demonstrate to someone that you appreciate them. That you do not take them or their efforts for granted. 

 

Now, just to be clear, a little half-hearted “thanks” said in passing doesn’t get it done. Look the other person in the eye and in your strongest, clearest voice say “Thank You” and mean it…sincerely. 


If you’re truly looking you won’t have to wait look for your first opportunity to appear. 

People Matter

If you lead people then you undoubtedly know that people matter. What you may not know is how much they need to know that you know they matter. We humans need to know we matter almost as much as we need air to breath. If we don’t see, without a doubt that we matter then doubt is what we will do. We’ll wonder if we really do matter…to anyone.

You can tell people everyday that they matter and still leave some doubt. If you really want them to know that you know they matter then don’t just tell them, show them.

Showing that someone matters doesn’t take one bit of extra effort, it merely requires a little thoughtfulness and effort that you should already be putting forth.

It’s unlikely that any true leader would intentionally tell their people that they don’t matter, but it happens unintentionally all too often.

For instance, nothing says “you don’t matter” more than picking up a call or texting while you’re talking with someone else.  You know how you feel when someone does that to you…well guess what, most everybody feels that way too. Ignore your cell phone or put it away completely. If you absolutely have to take a call, apologize, explain why and make it quick. 

Be present with whoever it is you’re talking with. Make them feel as if they are the most important person in your world, because in that very moment, they actually are.

Never forget the value of appreciation. Think about a time when you did something nice for someone and they never even acknowledged it with a simple thanks. There are many many times during an average day to recognize someone with a thank you. Many leaders actually think it’s a sign of weakness to thank a person who works for them. It is not, as a matter of fact, Authentic Servant Leaders seldom miss an opportunity to show their appreciation for a job well done. Don’t overlook the power of those two words and how they recognize a person.

Honor every commitment. Everybody knows undependable people. They say they will meet us and they never show. They are constantly canceling lunch plans at the last minute or not confirming their plans to attend until the very last second. The message they send is that their schedule is far more important than yours. If that by chance describes you then you need to change that habit. Show the other person they matter by honoring all commitments that you make in the time frame that you make them. Doing anything else is telling the person that they don’t truly matter.

You will never meet a person who doesn’t matter. It takes only a little forethought to let them know that you know, without a doubt, that they matter to you.