As someone who grew up and went to Uni in Texas,  there was a culture of politeness everywhere – from family life, communities, social life and business.     Politeness in business is more akin to some wild animals angling for the next kill.   A genuine attitude is read by others and a habit of good behaviour helps breed the culture needed for an organisation.

One of the easiest forms of politeness is the drilled into many at a young age.     Believe it or not, saying “thank you” to those around you is a form of currency.   Not only does gratitude go the distance, it also helps pay the bills.   A decade long study by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton of 200,000 managers and employees actually tied the “thank you’s” to bigger profits.

A culture a gratitude toward staff and colleagues was the focus of the study and they show in their research that organisations that show genuine thankfulness towards staff  tend to be more profitable.      Whether it is a quite “pat on the back”, token award for best service during the week or recognition in front of peers, it is important that the thank you be heart-felt.

How do you instil a culture of gratitude?

I believe it starts with being grateful to everyone – your family, your neighbours, your cleaner, your barista, your support staff, your customers, etc.  Show appreciation to the gatekeepers (personal assistants) who answer your phone, take messages, organise your life and tidy things up.   Give gifts to your clients, especially if you stuffed up.   Tip your barista and tell the person that brings you lunch to buy things for themselves (on your tab).   Give gifts to your staff that outperform others or for thinking outside the box.   Give sweets, chocolate or a display of fruit to your best clients.   Thank your wife/husband for being patient.

If you are finding it hard to do this naturally or if you are looking for ways to propagate the culture like a healthy infection, start with building routines and habits. Make them mandatory.    My brother worked as a barista in Nashville and was given training.  He must say “hello” and “smile” to a person within first 15 seconds of walking in the door.  If he knew their regular order, he would make it before they ask.    My mom used to give all of her salespeople gifts for anything including making the first sale, handling a difficult situation, or making progress on a target.   It starts with routines to make something into a habit.  Making it genuine is the hard part for some, but if you can do that, you are on your way to reaping profits!

Although it is often said that the Board of Directors sets the culture of the organisation, it is managers that implement and cultivate a culture of gratitude.

References and Pointers

1. Fast Company Magazine, November 2010, “Two Little Words” by Nancy Lublin

2. “The Orange Revolution, How one Great Team can transform an entire organization” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, September 2010, published by Free Press.

3. “The Carrots Principle, how the best managers use recognition to engage their people, retain talent and accelerate performance”  by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, 2007 & 2009, published by Free Press

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