It was 6 pm and I was still at the office, deep in a phone call with one of our team leaders about a client concern and our efforts to rectify it. There were a series of small service incidents, which is not uncommon in our industry, and together they created a bigger issue in the eyes of our customer. We were looking at the problem from every angle, in that zone of turning over every rock. I was battling feelings of frustration with the situation, helplessness at not being able to fix it immediately, and regret for having let it happen under my watch … not to mention impatience to get home.

Welcoming Gratitude In
While on the call, I experienced a moment where I found myself thinking about gratitude. Just the mere thought of gratitude was a game changer for how I engaged in that discussion. I thought about gratitude for the leader I was speaking with and how he was engaged in the discussion, gratitude for how he was able to evaluate the situation with good insight, gratitude for how he had engaged his team members and his client in the discussion, and gratitude for the personal sacrifices he was making to gain greater understanding and deploy new strategies to exceed our customers’ expectations.

While the issues with our customer persisted, my internal shift allowed for an opportunity to affirm our leader and encourage him to identify signs of progress. My deep gratitude for his work, as an outcome for pausing in the moment to appreciate that, immediately changed my emotional posture. I stopped focusing on the problems and feeling impatient, frustrated, or angry; I was simply happy being a part of the discussion. Gratitude allowed me to ask questions because I was grateful for the dialogue rather than dreadful of it. I asked questions and listened, and then asked a few more questions and listened even more, until my team leader was satisfied that he and his team where on the right track.

With an attitude of gratitude, I found a different path. As a leader with a burning desire to constantly exceed the expectation—an internal drive that is self imposed—it’s often hard for me to have an attitude of gratitude. My goal for the new year is to make sure to welcome gratitude into my life and to keep an attitude of gratitude in times of change and struggle.

Leading With Gratitude
As we examine our gratitude postures this year, here are some thoughts that can help us welcome gratitude in:

  • I am glad I’m here to help support, nurture, and encourage.
  • Life happening is not about me and I don’t have to make it about me. What a relief!
  • I know I don’t have all the answers. And quite possibly no one does.
  • I am better at asking questions and listening, not offering suggestions or directing. I want to be at ease in doing that.
  • Until I have full clarity, I should remain available but not superficially insert myself in order to feel important.
  • I need to realize that my value does not come from fixing this or that but rather from being present in the moment and available for my team.

I want to encourage you to jot down a couple things that give you a sense of gratitude. Or better yet, share them with me below in the comments! If you need help imagining some of those things, check out The Gratitude Challenge for some inspiration.

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