If there is a specific area where we, as leaders, can and do fall short of an acceptable standard, it is the area of gratitude. Especially if we have a “pioneer” personality which is focused on getting to the top of the mountain, we can be guilty of not being grateful. It is easy not to be grateful for what we have. It is also easy to forget those who have helped us achieve success. It's just easy to forget to be grateful.
If you find a great leader, you will find someone who had people help that leader gain success. Warren Buffett had Charles Munger. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Larry Page had Sergey Brin. Even Abraham Lincoln had Ulysses Grant. The list goes on and on. Sometimes you will hear very little grateful talk from some founders for anyone, but the reality is that they needed help.
Here are some points that we should keep in mind as leaders:
Recognize the efforts and the commitments of those who have helped you.
Don't ignore those who have helped you and stood with you through the good times and bad. If they are still with you, provide a good word and share your appreciation. Even though you let people go, recognizing them for their contribution is still a good thing. You don't have to make patronizing speeches. Just let people know that your success is partially due to their work. Not only will they appreciate the good word, you will feel better as you acknowledge the support you've received.
Take time to say thanks for those who are with you on the journey.
Do you forget those around you? Make a point to think of two or three things that you appreciate about those who are with you on the journey. Do something special for them as an act of gratitude. When you show your gratitude, try to do it at a time where there isn't any clearly compelling reason to remember to thank them. You'll be surprised how much more it will mean to them when you don't have any reason to say thanks – but you show your gratitude anyways.
Be committed to put others first before yourself when you succeed.
Everyone appreciates leaders who deflect the credit to others. There is a saying among successful coaches: “Give the players the credit for the win, and take the blame as the coach for the loss.” Most people are forgotten in the middle of the celebration. Make a point to tell key people in the celebration that they were important for the outcome. Let them know how they made a significant contribution to the “win.”
Realize that a major force for talented professionals to stay in an organization is not making a lot of money. Everyone enjoys recognition and appreciation. Think about the times where you gave your best and no one recognized you for the great work you did. Conversely, think about the times where you did a great job and someone recognized you for what you did. Who has your loyalty? Your respect? Who will you give your best effort?
The added benefit of expressing gratitude for those who have helped you is that they will do the same for others. Gratitude changes everything, including team members. And that's a great workplace for everyone concerned.