Gratitude has been a popular theme this summer. Recently, I’ve seen it everywhere: at startups I’ve visited, among employees at larger companies, and even on a message board in a café in the West Village (see photo below)! It’s been an impressive season for giving thanks!
Whether it is front and center and declared as a value or a subtler element of strategic operations, many of the companies I’ve befriended benefit from gratitude’s lasting effects. A culture that personally gives thanks and recognizes hard work impresses folks because it is a genuine mark of relationship building. The ability to form authentic relationships is a highly prized competitive advantage among small teams and becomes ever more valuable as a team expands.
How One Value Can Communicate Your Company Culture
The culture at Life is good centers on optimism. The belief of leading with purpose alongside a generous serving of gratitude embodies the mission and vision of the company. When interviewing a candidate, the folks at Life is good have focused their search on one question – ‘What are you grateful for?’ The response immediately indicates whether or not the person is a good fit. Your company may not have a quality that singularly defines your existence; or perhaps you haven’t discovered it yet. For folks at Life is good, their decisions and practices are deeply connected to gratitude. Articulating this at the hiring stage helps them find people whose values are aligned without limiting the diversity of their team.
I had the good fortune of hearing Simon Sinek speak recently; his talk touched upon studies of how happiness is linked to biochemical reactions in our brain. Hormones are released when people experience kindness, pride, and self-confidence (among many other things) and the result is often a feeling of gratitude. There are varying levels of appreciation for the actions of others; it all depends on the quality of the interactions. For example, when someone is thanked by their boss via email for a job well done, a bit of serotonin is released. When someone is thanked by a handshake, eye contact, and a smile, even more serotonin is released. The happiness we derive from relationships have a long lasting effect. If you are facing a workplace culture crisis and looking to revive a bit of happiness among your team, take a cue from Simon and start with why you want to inspire stronger relationships and foster happiness.
Leaders who foster happiness and emphasize the importance of relationship building have a team uniquely bound by personal experiences and connections. It sounds very warm and fuzzy but when quantitatively examined it has also proven to drive success and growth.
Next Jump is a humble organization that has cultivated gratitude without sacrificing authenticity despite growing to a company of over 200 and having four offices. They recently held their Avengers Award Ceremony, which gives employees the opportunity to recognize Next Jumpers who “most exemplify steward-leadership and create an environment that helps others succeed by caring for and serving those around them”. The peer nomination process spans a few months, recommendations are carefully vetted through an interview process, and the grand-prize winner is rewarded with a family vacation. The gratitude Next Jumpers experience when working with each other is reflected in their shared enthusiasm and excitement. Their mission is Better Me + Better You = Better Us and it inherently guides them along a continuous path of gratitude.
Barrel is a digital creative agency in New York City and their regular practice of peer appreciation is a prime example of how to motivate a team. Bourbon in hand, the team convenes on Friday afternoons to give thanks to others for their help and for getting stuff done. With a tight group of folks buried in project deadlines, taking this timeout to pause and recognize others keeps the team inspired and informed.
Are trends in gratitude more than just a startup or workplace culture phenomenon? Before the advent of the techie mecca, Silicon Valley, previous generations sought to shake up the status quo. The opportunity to express gratitude has presented itself very prominently in the easily pivoting world of technology. The pursuit of happiness isn’t new, nor is it limited to startup culture. However, with the influx of Millennials in the workforce today, demands for making a contribution to something greater while reaping the benefits of such satisfaction are on the rise. Most Millennials change jobs due to a poor culture fit. Now more than ever before, a larger percentage of the workforce is holding companies accountable for happiness and companies who understand this invest in creating authentic relationships with people, increasing the happiness factor. This isn’t a startup culture phenomenon but elements of gratitude and happiness are easily observed from this quickly evolving ecosystem.