Do you know the importance of learning how to express gratitude?
It seems simple, yet I’m still amazed in 20 years of family business consulting how many families are really pitiful at expressing appreciation and gratitude.
So you might ask me why is that even important?
Energy is contagious. When you can learn to look for things to be grateful for and when you can learn to express gratitude and appreciation, it can significantly alter the mood and mindset of the family and the team.
Do you play a musical instrument? As you can imagine, your ability to play it well is directly related to your ability to practice the skill.
I’m challenging you as family business leaders to challenge your family to practice expressing appreciation this month.
Here’s how it should happen
Get everyone together in a room.
Be a leader and tell them that you have been learning new skills and you would like the whole family to begin to learn new skills.
Say, “The skill we’re going to learn and practice this month is expressing appreciation and gratitude.”
Then do it this way
Start with one person at a time. Go around the room and have everyone say one thing they appreciate about someone…
Yes, it will be a little awkward, but like any new skill it will get better with time.
Just watch how people do delivering the appreciation and even more importantly, receiving them. Spoiler alert – have a box of tissues close by.
For recipients, it’s really important that you simply listen and say, “Thank you.” Avoid the common pitfall of deflecting or downplaying the appreciation.
I think one of the things that trip people up is that they are reluctant to express appreciation for people that they have frustrations with. Expressing appreciation does not in any way take away from or diminish frustration.
Think of it this way — you make deposits and withdrawals into emotional and relationship bank accounts with one another. If you are constantly making withdrawals (complaints) and never making deposits (signs of appreciation), you are going to have a pretty overdrawn account.
Additionally, I don’t want you to express appreciation just so you can also express your complaints. I want you to genuinely express appreciation and just leave it at that for the time being.
We often teach this appreciation exercise in family business conflict training. Some people struggle with coming up with appreciation. This is another reason it’s important to teach yourself to look for things to be grateful for.
Here are some common examples
Mom and Dad — I appreciate you for having the courage and tenacity to start the business.
Daughter — I appreciate you for your willingness to try to work with us and make this business a success.
Daughter-in-law — I appreciate your patience with some of our family dynamics, being a part of this family and being a great mother for our grandchildren.
Brother — I appreciate you for the passion you bring to this business.
Sister — I appreciate that you bring lots of different perspectives that help us see things from a bigger picture.
You get the idea?
You can do this. Get everyone together and help them practice expressing appreciation. The benefits will be very impactful for your family and your business.
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.