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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

How Can Leaders Be More Grateful for Their Team?


Did you know that money is not the only incentive you can use to motivate your employees?


In fact, as millennials are taking over the workforce, it seems that what motivates them is much different than what motivated the generations that have come before.


“In order to keep motivated, they need to know that they are in an environment where they (and their ideas and hard work) are valued. They want to feel respected and appreciated.”

- Business.com

It turns out, things like appreciation, recognition, and respect are more highly prioritized than monetary incentive alone.

The best part about this news is that it’s relatively easy to motivate your employees in the way they want and need. You just have to express your gratitude!

Showing gratitude for your people can be relatively cost free. It’s as simple as giving verbal appreciation for what they are doing and how they are contributing to your business. You can, of course, do more elaborate offerings like provide lunch at the office, write personal thank you letters (like my mentor did), or even take your employees to an event of their interest outside of work.

There are many ways to show gratitude. The way in which you do it is less important than just actually doing it.

When you express gratitude towards the people in your organization, you’ll see more engagement, motivation, and drive from them because they will feel genuinely valued and like they belong on your team or in your organization.

Here are some ways you can start creating an attitude of gratitude that will transform your company’s culture.


1. Practice the 3 Be’s

In my many years of leadership experience, I’ve identified “3 Be’s” to becoming an effective leader.

  1. Be self aware

  2. Be proficient

  3. Be yourself

When you practice these “3 Be’s”, you’ll put yourself on the right path to become a leader with an attitude of gratitude.


When you show up with self-awareness, you understand what’s going on with your team and how you can help encourage their process. Showing gratitude all starts with you. When you lead by example, you’ll inspire and motivate others to do the same.

To inspire more appreciation, recognition, and positive encouragement in your organization, as a leader, change is an inside job.

Being proficient cultivates a culture of growth. And to really grow a team that thrives, they need recognition for their unique gifts, talents, and skills. As engineers, our craft is always evolving and there are always opportunities to strengthen our knowledge or skill set. When your employees take steps to advance their own skills, recognize what they are doing!

Being yourself can be hard, but it is incredibly inspiring and motivating to others. When people see you leading in the way that is truly authentic to you, they are drawn to you as a leader and want to buy into your vision, goals, and mission. When you express gratitude from a place of authenticity, people feel truly valued and want to keep growing with you.


2. Get to know your team and what’s going on


Part of being a leader that can show genuine appreciation, is knowing what is going on with each person on your team! Yes, I said each of them.

Each employee in your organization is a unique individual with different needs, dreams, goals, and ambitions. When you get to know your team, you’re better able to give them the appreciation they truly deserve.


If knowing what’s going on with everyone on your team feels overwhelming, read this blog about my mentor, Rudy Bonaparte, who used notecards to keep track of conversations he had with his entire organization of 800+ people!


For me, I have a small team so I am able to get to know each of them on a really personal level. For example, I know that one of my team members is currently grieving the loss of her brother. So I know things like meeting deadlines and staying current with her workload has been a little more difficult for her to accomplish right now. Knowing this, I am able to be more flexible around her needs and I know when to give extra recognition and gratitude for the things she’s struggling more with.


In return, I know she appreciates being appreciated and she has shared with me that the empathy, understanding, and flexibility I’ve given have really helped her to keep showing up, continue to move forward with her work and business, and has created a deeper connection and sense of trust in our work relationship.

An attitude of gratitude is necessary for creating an open, honest, and communicative environment. If your people feel valued, seen, and appreciated for what they are doing, they are more likely to remain loyal, show up even when they don’t want to, and be transparent about the challenges they are facing.


3. Know the mission and encourage along the way


I don’t know about you, but I know when I get a “job well done” from my boss after leaping over a seemingly insurmountable hurdle, it feels good.

Similar to knowing your team, knowing your mission, vision, and plan is equally important. When you are clear on expectations and goals, you can start helping your team overcome the challenges and are able to give gratitude along the way.

As a leader, you can anticipate the problems, encourage solutions, and be there to congratulate your team as they cross the finish line. When you really get on board with your team’s projects it helps to generate forward momentum that will carry them to crossing that finish line faster than you expected.


According to a poll done by SurveyMonkey, 82% of people are happier when they are recognized at work. And, when it comes to millennials, research is finding that money is not always what motivates them the most!

“The most effective incentive programs for millennials will focus on improving work-life balance, enabling flexible schedules, offering timely promotions and giving back to the community, as well as small gestures.

- Forbes


So maybe instead of giving out cash as recognition, you give out a free “personal” day to your team, gift tickets to an exciting event, or just simply say, “Hey thanks, you killed it.”

When it comes down to it, your team completing the mission is going to make your life easier, your business more successful, or the organization a better place to work overall… so let them know that! Get vulnerable and verbally express how their work is going to positively impact your life or the lives of others. This will fuel their fire and inspire them to achieve more great things!


Express appreciation and genuine interest and watch your team thrive!


There are benefits to recognizing your employees. Your people want to be recognized for their efforts, even when they sometimes fall short. At the end of the day, it’s the people in your organization that keep it going so do your part as a leader to give them what they need to thrive!

And also remember that money and cash bonuses are not the only thing that will motivate employees. Studies and research show there’s plenty of other things that motivate employees, especially the millennial crowd.


The truth is, most people are trying to do a good job at work. They want to come to a place they enjoy working at and do their best to make it better. When you look at your overall organization, remember this. And express gratitude for the people that are showing up and the work they are doing.

I believe everyone deserves to be recognized and valued for their role in an organization and it always starts with you. The more appreciation you show your people, the more they will show it to each other and start creating a culture that has a strong attitude of gratitude.


To learn more about how you can use an attitude of gratitude to transform your workplace culture, reach out to me and let’s connect.

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