The Practice of Gratitude

The ChiefOur dog, a three-year-old black lab named Chief, really has lived up to his name. He is dignified, kind, and gracious with all people and with other dogs. At meal time, he sits patiently and watches intently while his food is prepared. When we put his food down, he waits to be invited to eat. But then he does the dearest thing: when he is finished eating, he goes over to whoever put his food down and thanks them by nuzzling the hand. It is truly adorable.

Is there anything more attractive than gratitude? I think not. And guess what? It is as good for the person expressing gratitude as it is for the one receiving it. The research is piling up. Barbara Fredrickson’s research on Positivity shows a significant difference in health indicators, creativity, and resilience in people who practice gratitude among other positive emotions.

Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, leading researchers on the way gratitude affects health and well-being, define gratitude this way: “Gratitude is an acknowledgment that we have received something of value from others. It arises from a posture of openness to others, where we are able to gladly recognize their benevolence.”

Their work shows that there is evidence to support the notion that gratitude facilitates coping with stress and reduces toxic emotions resulting from self and social comparisons and materialism. Further, experiencing gratitude can make positive memories (as opposed to bad ones) easier to access, helps build community, makes achieving goals more likely, and promotes health.

In the US, we are once again celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It is not accidental that most cultures have a “gratitude” holiday. It is simply good for us to stop and remember what we are grateful for. Many people “say grace” year round before eating, which is a wonderful way to stay mindful about how fortunate we are to have plentiful food and clean water.

Of course, practicing a form of religion usually involves giving thanks, and The Blue Zones research shows that people who live the longest belong to some kind of religious community. The secular among us can easily reap the same benefits. From a health and well-being standpoint there is ample evidence that practicing gratitude in small ways on a daily basis is a good idea.

Some ideas:

  • When stopped at a traffic light or sitting in traffic, instead of looking at your smartphone, make a list in your head of all of the things you are grateful for. It will lower your blood pressure, release beneficial neurotransmitters and reduce adrenaline and cortisol in your bloodstream.
  • Write a thank-you note or email to someone who has done something nice for you. It will make you smile and it will make the person who receives it smile.
  • As you are falling asleep at night, review your day and come up with one lovely thing you are grateful for. It can be as simple as the hummingbirds who love the tree outside your kitchen window or the fact that you have a job.

Make gratitude a habit. It isn’t that hard to do—and the rewards are immediate and vast.

Tasty Tidbits from Social Neuroscience

I got the opportunity to attend the 14th NeuroLeadership summit in San Francisco last week. So many wonderful insights from social neuroscientists about how the newest brain research is shedding light on our behaviour. A couple of nuggets for you, our faithful blog readers:

  • Brain exercises do not increase your brain power, despite what Luminosity spends on marketing. Use that time to learn a new language, develop new skills or exercise your body; your brain will reap more benefits.
  • Collaboration does often yield better problem solving and more creative decisions, but it slows things down and the best companies reserve it for special occasions, not as a default.
  • The “in group/out group” response by the brain is constant and pretty much random. This means that the brain is constantly assessing whether other people are “on our team” or “not on our team” and this effect can be created by scientists merely telling you that some people are on your team and others are not. You will instinctively see those on the other team as adversaries.
  • Understanding one’s values, articulating them, writing about them and repeating them increases emotional resilience. Not sure how or why yet, but wow, who knew? The best argument ever for engaging in our Leadership Point of View exercise.
  • One of the most robust findings about learning is that the more “spacing” is used while learning – breaking the content into small chunks and repeating it a couple of times over a period of days with sleep between times – the better. Spacing ensures that the content is encoded into long term memory. Cramming information – learning it quickly right before an exam, for example – will result in the information staying in short term memory and then disappearing. A terrific support for Blended Learning!

Leadership and Learning

by Linda Miller, MCC

It’s hard to believe that JFK died 50 ago.  Because of the 50-year mark, there’s been lots of talk about him and his death recently.  He left quite a legacy, as we’re all aware.  Lead & Learn Pic

In preparing to lead a class on coaching around managing and leading, I found an interesting quote:

Leadership and learning are indispensible to one another. 
John F. Kennedy

How very true that is!  As leaders and managers, we need to remember that we learn, too. Learning is not just for the people we lead.  Reading the quote made me think about what I’ve learned, or re-learned, recently:

  1. We’re all leaders in one way or another – at home, in the workplace, in places of faith, in communities, with ourselves. Embracing ourselves as leaders is important.
  2. Leadership is about character and values and living out our values consistently. This builds trust and creates a safe environment for others to do and be their best.
  3. People watch everything that we do.  When our actions and words are aligned, we model congruency and inspire others to do the same.
  4. Each day is a day to be grateful – grateful for what we have, for those who around us, and for the gifts we’ve been given externally and internally.

The words of JFK have made me reflective and thankful, especially at this season, and ready for more learning….how about you?

Leadership Point of View

Since early May, I’ve had the honor and privilege of participating in an internal leadership program at Blanchard.  Working within the small cohort of some of Blanchard’s most brightest, talented and dedicated future leaders of our organization has been amazing!  Sadly, the program comes to end today, with a presentation to our leadership team about our personal highlights and learning from the program along with a report on the project we have been working on together.
Manager & Employee
The biggest highlight of participating in this program for me was the experience of creating my Leadership Point of View (LPOV).  I enjoyed the introspective exercise of looking at past events and people in my life that have helped shape my leadership style and how my personal values also play into that.  I feel that creating my LPOV is such a valuable tool when shared with those I lead, work with or report to, in order to enhance my working relationships and communication with others.

My Leadership Point of View is comprised of the following components: A key event in my life which was an experience I had during my first professional job, a key person in my life who became a role model for me as a Situational Leader, and how my personal values of Service to Others, Dependability, and Personal Growth is something that people I work with can expect of me and what I also expect of them.  Additionally, I gave examples of people or situations in which I had an experience of others demonstrating my own personal values.

Due to the experience I had crafting my own Leadership Point of View and the value in sharing it with others in order to enhance my working relationships, I highly encourage you to do the same.  You can create your LPOV by including the components of my LPOV that I shared above, using your own examples and values.  Also, for more detailed information on Blanchard’s Leadership Point of View program, please go to this link: http://www.kenblanchard.com/Solutions/Executive-Development/Leadership-Point-of-View