Positive Change

Beginning and Ending with Gratitude, Part 2

Continuing on the ideas I shared in a previous blog post, I wanted to share a virtual version of the practice that Dr. Glenda Eoyang calls “Poems.” An exercise to express gratitude toward your team mates. In the past, I’ve done this practice with senior leaders and natural working teams, with outstanding success. And I wondered if being in proximity makes it easy and more impactful. Taking turns silently reflecting on positive attributes of one person, writing them down on post-its, and handing them as if gifts to your colleague… I felt I would miss a lot.

I finally brought up the courage to do this exercise in a Zoom world. And boy, was I proven wrong. It was still easy; it was still impactful, and the energy was still going off the charts.

I’m sharing the experience and practical steps to inspire you and make it easy for you to try.

I used Mentimeter as the primary tool and had set the expectations that we will use a smartphone, tablet, or secondary device for polling. And they knew coming in that we will do a special retrospective and team building exercise.

I started out with a warm-up question in the vein of gratitude. Meant to be light-hearted and as you can see was taken lightheartedly.

After that I had two slides to set the stage for the exercise and the prompt. Reminding them to practice the art of noticing positive attributes in others and then presenting them the following prompt:

What is a positive attribute you would use to describe your team mate? e.g. funny, approachable, honest, radically curious etc

I would ask the person who’s name would be on the slide to be the receiver and everyone else be the senders. I asked them to write the answers and not hit submit until one-at-a-time they said what they noticed in their colleague (multiple attributes allowed.) And we created poems for each one. And here are some examples:

The feedback I received from the session was immensely validating that gratitude is an energy. When you give it in a structured or unstructured format, you build energy for yourself to use.

I had scheduled this session after the team got to each other for a month, and I had it scheduled on the last day of the week and late in the day. And you’d be forgiven, if you met them and thought the high energy is coming from a team that has just started their week and are ready to take on the world.

And I appreciate you for taking the time to read this post. And I encourage you to build more positivity and gratitude in your places of work, home, and communities!

Positive Change

Beginning and Ending with Gratitude

I’ve experimented with gratitude for many years. It started with me wanting to believe its value. Now, there was this messy middle of my experiments where I would find myself frozen with inaction, insincere, and awkward. I had to build the courage to notice and appreciate others. To my surprise, it wasn’t a noble deed for them, rather; it built an energy store for me. An energy store that I could use to great effect and impact.

Even in the face of extreme difficulty, there is much to be grateful for. Gratitude is a matter of choice, we can always focus on what and who we are grateful for. It helps us get grounded and build the energy to move forward in seemingly intractable situations. As a student and practitioner of complexity, I’m always looking for differences that make a difference. Practicing and expressing gratitude is one of those differences. 

I was in China on an international assignment for 3 months and conducted several workshops for the coaches. I ran a gratitude workshop that I learned from Dr. Glenda Eoyang near the end of my assignment. I knew it would be impactful, what I did not know was that it would create ripple effects of positivity. One of my associates there recently reached out to me and was delightfully describing how she loves it and how she’s facilitated in different settings including an extended leadership team meeting. She felt it spoke to her and that she’s finding the same spark light up with others. (I intend to write up instructions for the workshop in a subsequent blog post)

None of what I have said so far should be earth shattering. It’s common sense, it’s simple. Yet, I find people surprised when I thank them for something they did or for the bright smile they brought to work today or that I’m just grateful to see them. It’s simple, and yet, it isn’t easy without deliberate practice.

One of my mentors helped me realize my own limitations when he asked me to thank five people every day until it becomes an unconscious habit. And man, was it hard. I would make excuses, say that it feels weird. And as hilarious as it would sound, he said I should be already 50% done before I even leave for work by thanking people in my household. He wouldn’t let me get away with excuses. 

And I’m grateful to my mentor for that. When I offer reinforcing feedback or thanks to others, I build my energy reserve. I feel more positive throughout the day.

I’ll leave you with a meeting warm-up that I love doing. And I encourage you to try it with your team.

Invite people to answer a question in the category of gratitude. You may ask “what are you thankful for? Or you can change it up for limitless possibilities. The advice here is to pick only one question and model the behavior by going first. Here are two examples I’ve used in the past:

What fills you with gratitude right here, right now?

As you reflect on the past (day, week, month), who do you feel thankful to?

And now it’s your turn!

Read part two of this blog post here.