Little Things Make a Big Difference: An Attitude of Gratitude Goes a Long Way

Having an attitude of gratitude and saying thank you assists us in having a mindset of generosity. Acknowledging each other fills a basic human need. We all want to know we are doing a great job.

Being grateful means you take nothing for granted. It’s shown in the little things, as the saying goes. Small things really matter—a word of encouragement, a smile, a note thanking someone for a job well done, a “go for it” note to someone who is doubting themselves—these things make all the difference in the world. They have a enormous impact on our relationships. Look for the things you can appreciate in your direct reports and co-workers and acknowledge them—and remember to look for the little things that make a big difference.

Some ideas or examples are: Send birthday cards. Buy people lunch. Hand out gift cards. Deliver ice cream. At one organization, the Employee Appreciation Committee goes around every month and drops off a little treat for each member of the staff. “They may receive something as simple as a muffin, but it’s a constant reminder that we appreciate our employees and their dedication.”

Consistency is also important. Congruity in all our behaviors and consistently showing gratitude and appreciation, builds an environment of trust, respect, and safety. It is easier to give an occasional “thank you” than to systematically recognize and acknowledge good work. If you want appreciation to become an everyday happening among your team, you need to set the example of making it an everyday thing in your interactions and communications.

Actively Look for Ways to Acknowledge People

Gratitude is valuable, and I think we should all be grateful every day and look for ways to give gratitude. You might want to have your own scorecard for yourself: How many times have you appreciated people today? Are you actively looking for ways to acknowledge people and appreciate them? It’s not just about giving obviously deserved appreciation. It’s looking for reasons to give it. Look for ways that people are extending themselves, times they are going above and beyond, areas where they want to develop, and where they are stepping into growth. Look for when they are trying, when they are making an effort. You want to acknowledge the effort. You want to applaud steps of progress.

I was conducting an assessment for a leader who was introverted and shy. I was talking to one of her coworkers who is a real fireball, and she was saying about the first woman, “I see that she is making an effort and I do feel like she is trying.” I asked her, “Have you acknowledged her for that?” And she said, “No, I haven’t and you know, I’m going to do it today!” Peer to peer acknowledgement is powerful, and more so if you know the person is working on a certain area of their leadership. Noticing on their behalf that the efforts they are making are creating an impact is powerful. In essence, you are assisting them in celebrating their own success.

Appreciation is powerful when it happens on every level. Why not say thank you to coworkers? Why not give acknowledgement peer to peer? In the case above, if the person shared an area in which they are looking to grow and evolve, why not say, “I’ve noticed that you’re trying, and it’s showing. When we were in this meeting and you did X, Y, and Z, I saw that you were trying a different approach with this executive, rather than going about it the way you have in the past.”

As a leader, your responsibility is to also acknowledge people when you see that they are doing a great job. That kind of interaction creates a happy, engaged, and motivated workforce.

Consider, how many times have you appreciated people today? Are you actively looking for ways to acknowledge people?

Here are actions to take to further your appreciation:

  • At the end of each day, make a list of three positive things that other people did.
  • Ask yourself whether you took the time to appreciate them. If not, take action right away—write them a note, or an email, or leave a voice message. Or plan a brief meeting at the soonest possible time so you can tell them in person.
  • Think about the words you use, whether spoken or written. Are you tailoring the appreciation to the person’s behavior and values? Is your praise clear and specific?
  • Are you consistent in expressing gratefulness and appreciation to your coworkers and direct reports, including for the little things? If not, think about how you can more frequently and even “systematically” appreciate people, and how you can make it an everyday occurrence.

The funny thing about gratitude is that it grows. Your appreciation of another gives more encouragement for them to do the same and to pass it on. Just imagine a workplace where appreciation was taught, facilitated and given freely simply because that was the culture. Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment that has such gratefulness. Pass the gratitude on!

Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect.

In the meantime, download our FREE eBook – “Why Your Company’s Bottom Line Is Not Your Top Priority: 6 Eye-Opening Strategies to Put People First