News from the Top

Gratitude & Togetherness


Let me share a bit about myself: I have a very strong gratitude practice. Years ago, a good friend and I decided to text each other five things we are grateful for each morning. Topics range from deeply personal to work advancements and from people and opportunities to the health of our children and more. Of course, there are days when we struggle and can only come up with COFFEE or IT’S FRIDAY. But the point is we reframe our thoughts to experience life through this lens. Over the years, this practice has also spread into my professional life. In honor of the holiday next week, I thought I would share some of my professional gratitude practices.

Example 1: Our organization produces a large-scale art festival twice a year … 350 artists, stages, food vendors and more. It’s a beloved event. A few years ago, I started sending my artists a gratitude message the week before the event. I recognized the difficulty of their career choice, the labor in setting up and tearing down for events, and the vulnerability of creating a personal work of art and allowing it to be judged by passersby on the street. I thanked them for their contributions to our downtown. Honestly, I was terrified before I sent the first one assuming people would think I was wasting their time. The response was incredible. They felt I cared for them in a way that was greater than a typical event producer. They were kinder at the festival; they came up to me and thanked me or hugged me; they were less anxious during set up. Of course, it wasn’t magic, and some of them were still difficult to work with, but it placed a layer of humanity between us all. I have even had artists that have chosen our event over competing events because they believe I care about them. And therein lies the business reason if someone needs it.

Example 2: My daily self-practice has seeped into my relationship with my team. I’ve rethought what praise looks like and the shallow form that it too often takes. It is one thing to offer a “good job” to a team member, and it is quite another to recognize their impact and the cost to themselves. The difference between “good job on that report” and “I want you to know how grateful I am that you did that report. Given all that you had on your plate, you produced something that will really have an impact on our organization, and I’m so appreciative.” I now carry that approach through to board members, vendors and stakeholders. It may sound incredibly simplistic, but it is incredibly powerful.

Example 3: We hold monthly staff get-togethers to show the team that we appreciate their efforts and provide an opportunity for fellowship outside the daily meetings. Each month a different staff member takes the lead and plans that month’s event. The employee responsible for November presented the idea to me of focusing on gratitude, and I swear it was his idea alone! He has communicated to our team that we should all be sending gratitude tags to each other this week, and next week, he is hosting a gratitude workshop. In his words: “The November monthly staff gathering will be centered around gratitude and togetherness, two factors that promote a positive work environment.”

It is not lost on me that the original Thanksgiving celebration is wrapped in Indigenous history and that we have many reparations to pay with respect to our native lands and people. But the lesson of gratitude is what I am taking today, along with its power to make people feel as if you are investing in them. Happy gratitude day, everyone!