The following is a conversation between Adrian Gostick, Co-Author of Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving. 

Adrian Gostick, Co-Author of Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

Denver: Showing gratitude to employees is the best way to boost performance, yet few executives effectively utilize this simple tool. In fact, new research reveals people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anywhere else. Why is that the case, and what can be done to address it? To find out, it’s a pleasure to have with us, Adrian Gostick, the Co-author of Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Adrian! 

Adrian: Thanks, Denver. Appreciate you having me! 

Denver: I thought an interesting place for us to start would be with your own personal gratitude transformation. Share with us that story.

Adrian: It’s interesting because I don’t get asked that question very often. So I go back into my past.  There were a couple of things.  I was a vice president of a large bank. I handled investor relations and corporate communications, and I was a young, charging — young executive. I had about 10 employees who worked for me.  After a while, one of my employees came to me and she said, “You know, you should recognize us.” And I was like, “What does that even mean?” I was about getting things done. I was about climbing that corporate ladder. 

It’s about genuine, sincere appreciation, but also seeing the value that’s created. So, it’s not just saying thanks; it’s actually seeing the value that’s being created.

Denver: You were in a hurry!

Adrian: Exactly! I had an employee named Pat K.  She’d done our employee newsletter for 30 years. I pushed her to redesign the newsletter, get contributors from all around the country and really make it something that people would actually read, and she did. And it turned out to be something that we were all proud of. And again, Jenny, one of the other employees came to me and said, “You need to recognize her.” Again, I had no idea. 

And so, finally, Jenny brought me… it has a little cup with some chocolates in it and some frou-frou around it and stuff. She goes, “Give this to Pat in the staff meeting.” I went, “OK.” So we went to the staff meeting, and I’m sitting at the head of the table and I start talking about Pat redesigning the newsletter… what a great job she’d done, and I give her this, and there were tears in Pat’s eyes. And she said, “You know, after 30 years, this is the first time somebody has publicly recognized me here at the bank.” 

And it was sort of this “Aha!” to me. This could really mean something. I thought it was all about getting ahead, making money, stock options, bonuses for a lot of other people who work for us. No. It’s about genuine, sincere appreciation, but also seeing the value that’s created. So, it’s not just saying thanks; it’s actually seeing the value that’s being created. So that’s, I think, the first time I really learned that lesson. 

Denver: That’s a great story. And the fact of the matter is, it wasn’t just you who had the blind spot. There were 30 years of blind spots as far as Pat was concerned, so it was pretty much the way of the world. Is there any science around gratitude? 

Adrian: There really is. And we can get into some of the fun science in Leading with Gratitude, that it releases dopamine within us and all this kind of stuff, but I won’t bore us with that. What we find though is that — there’s a lot of data that comes around this — that it really does enhance employee engagement. It really does enhance the leader’s credibility as well. 

Now, not everybody is driven by recognition. A lot of us go, “Look, I don’t need my boss patting me on the back.” Well, this is not what we’re talking about here. Gratitude is bigger than that. It’s like when I was finally — thanks to another employee’s help — able to spot the value that was being created. Gratitude really is about seeing the value that’s created around you. That’s where it begins. 

And so really, that’s one of the things that we find in the data. When you say, “Is there science behind it?” Yes. There’s a lot of science that’ll make us feel better. One of my favorite data points is that if we are happier at work, we’re 150% more likely to have a happy life outside of work

Denver: Makes sense.

Adrian: So it trickles into everything. So, yes. There’s a lot of good data there. 

Denver: You break up the book really nicely between the myths that prevent us from showing gratitude at work and some of the best practices that will help us begin. But before we go there, I want to ask you about fear-based culture. 

Now, I know there are a couple of leaders out there who think that’s a good motivator, and I understand that. They think that. But the great majority of them who are at the heads of these organizations that have a fear-based culture have no idea that’s what’s going on. In fact, when they are confronted with that, or somebody tells them that, they’re stunned! They’re hurt. There’s a tremendous cognitive dissonance there. What are they missing? 

Adrian: I agree with you. It’s like, “What do you mean I scare my people? Come on. What do you mean?”

Denver: They say it in a way that scares you almost.

Adrian: Exactly! They may even whisper it, “What do you mean I scare…?” which is even scarier. 

So the thing is what we find is, yes, you’re right. There may be a few leaders still remaining who believe in the fear-based culture, but 99 out of 100 leaders, when you ask, will say, “No, no. Look, I know that’s anathema. That’s from a bygone era.” And yet, we found about a third of managers are seen by their employees as cultivating fear in their workplace. 

Now, they don’t do it by smoking a stogie and being the tough, aggressive boss. They do it by some very subtle things like, “You know, Denver, if we don’t hit our numbers next quarter, I don’t know if I can promise everybody their jobs.” They stoke fear.  Or maybe they’re insecure, and they’re worried. “Well, I don’t want to recognize my employees because maybe I’m insecure myself,” and they spread fear like a bad perfume throughout the office. 

So we go into in the book a lot of ways that managers spread fear without even knowing it, and it really is very pervasive. Again, we found about a third of managers are seen this way by their employees. 

Denver:  And a lot of it, I think, is their language, too. It’s just a little, subtle twist in their language that changes the perception. 

Well, you get into the myths, so let’s talk about a couple of those. One is too much praise and too much recognition is going to devalue it. It’s going to become a commodity. It’s going to be cheapened. What’s wrong with that?

Adrian: Yes, especially with these young employees, right? 

Denver: You can’t give them enough. That’s all they want. 

Adrian: Exactly. That’s all they want. I work with a lot of leaders. We do a lot of leadership seminars; used to do it in person, now we’re doing them virtually. But when I would work with these leaders, oftentimes, they’ll tell you for hours about the young employees who work for them and how much of a challenge they are. They need constant reinforcement. They’re narcissists. And we also have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of millennials and Gen Z who are coming into the workplace or have been there for five or ten years, and it’s a different story when we talk to the employees versus the managers. 

The employees are very interesting. They say, “Look, we grew up on recognition. Every part of our lives, we were appreciated. If I was the first chair trombone, I received recognition. I got grades every day in my classes. And then we come into the workplace, and we hear nothing. And so, what happens is if I as an employee hear nothing, I change my behavior because I’m going to keep changing it until I hear approbation because that’s how I have been raised.” 

And so, you can no longer say, “Look, we’ll tell you if you’re doing wrong. Otherwise, just keep doing what you’re doing,” because what we heard from hundreds of these younger people is that — “That doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep changing until you tell me I’ve done something right.” Now, what a waste of effort and what a waste of talent! 

What we find is that, and especially the younger people, they need to hear gratitude because it lets them know “I’m doing the things that the company values.” They don’t want just pats on the back; they’re meaningless. They want to know that they are creating value, and it’s in the right direction, if that makes sense. 

Denver: It really does make sense. And even if when it’s critical sometimes, they want feedback. They want to hear something in terms of how they’re doing so they can continue or improve or whatever, and it’s that absence that I think really causes a tremendous amount of stress. 

Here’s another myth. Look, if I start going around praising everybody, it’s going to come across as pretty inauthentic, pretty bogus. Maybe the employees think they’re being played by me. I’m just doing it to get better performance.  They’re being manipulated. What do you have to say about that?

Adrian: You probably shouldn’t do it then, right? 

Denver: It sounds pretty good to me. 

Adrian: There’s a reason that Gordon Ramsay has built this network… you turn on Fox, and every show is Gordon Ramsay transforming, right? Transforms a restaurant, transforms this person and this person. We love the comeback. We love the person who learns, “Oh my gosh! I guess I have been a little bit knuckleheaded.”  And especially in our boss. 

Now, there’s a nugget, of course, of truth in this, that when you first start, it takes a long time to change perception. So your employees, you may go, you may bring Sandra up in front of everybody and say what a great job she’s done. And if you have not been good at this, there’s a very good chance that Sandra is going, “OK. What does he want? He’s just setting me up for more work.” You have to stick with this. It takes dedication to change. It takes a little humility to admit, “Look, I haven’t been the best at this,” but it’s OK to even admit it to our organizations. 

When Jenny Schumann taught me how to recognize my other employee, I admitted it to my team. I said, “Look, I haven’t been the best at this. I didn’t even know this was a real thing that people needed. It’s not a big driver of mine.” But I realized that a lot of my people needed that reinforcement. And I told them, “I’m going to be better at this. I’m going to be better at noticing the value that’s created and appreciating it. And I need you to help me because I can’t see everything good that’s going on alone, but together we can really create a great environment.” And we started to after that. We really started to become this amazing place to work because everybody was spotting things that they needed to recognize in each other. 

Denver: OK, Adrian. You convinced me that I’m going to have to recognize my people. But they’re in the middle of a project right now, and what I’m going to do is wait till it’s finished. And at the very end, when we put a bow around it, recognize them then. Does that make sense? 

Adrian: Yes, it makes perfect sense, except it doesn’t work. It’s like going to one of our kids’ or grandkids ‘ soccer matches, and we all, as parents say, “Look. All this clapping, it’s really annoying. It’s chafing my hands. What I’m going to do is let’s all wait till the end, and if our team wins, we’ll cheer then.” There goes the home-field advantage. The reason that we keep cheering our kids as they’re playing all the way along is because we know it encourages them. “Hey, great tackle!” “Hey, great kick!” “Love the run that you made!” We keep encouraging. We praise effort, but we reward results. 

And so, what we find is that — we interviewed dozens of really… some pretty cool CEOs for Leading with Gratitude. One of them was Ken Chenault, who was the CEO of American Express. One of the only Black CEOs of a Fortune 500 company for many years. We interviewed him actually the week he retired. He sat down with us, and he says, “This is one thing a lot of leaders get wrong. They want to hold their praise till the end. That’s wrong.” He says, “If you’re on a journey, you’re looking for little signposts and markers that you’re on the right path. That’s what gratitude does. We reward the small wins along the way, not waiting till the end.” And he says, “I’m afraid a lot of leaders get that wrong. “

And so one of the things that Ken was very good at, he would keep a little journal with him.

Denver: His gratitude journal. 

Adrian: Never leave home without it. You and I are old enough to know that. As he was out with his employees, he would write down, “Oh, that’s great!” He would write down the thing, and then that night, he would come back and he would just send an email to that employee, copy their manager, or send them a handwritten note. People kept those for years because it came from the boss, and it meant that he was paying attention — “He knew what I had done that really created value.” 

Denver: One other myth. This is all nice. This is a lot of happy talk. But at the end of the day, it’s about the Benjamins. It’s about the compensation. And if I’m giving my people and paying them well and a nice bump, really none of it, the rest of it, matters much. What’s wrong with that? 

Adrian: One of the biggest problems is, and especially now in COVID time, is we just don’t have that much money.  We’re working with a brokerage that, for the first time ever, won’t pay bonuses this year. So they’ve come to us, and they’ve said, “What do we do? How do you motivate people without money?” Well, this is how the rest of the world has lived forever. We’ve had to find ways other than compensation to keep people engaged through simple ideas like having their voice heard, or giving them gratitude.

So this brokerage, which is used to giving out to people 50% to 200% of their salary and bonuses, is paying zero this year. So how will they motivate people without cash? And that’s where the rest of us are. We only have so much cash to give and, frankly, cash is so important to all of us, but it’s not, we find with most people, a motivator as much as it is a satisfier. It’s something I use to say, “Am I doing well in my job?” But I’m going to leave if I’m not feeling appreciated, if I’m not feeling valued.

I think we’ve all worked at one of those places that maybe paid us well, but we were on the drive home, we thought about “I hope my boss gets killed in some gardening accident over the weekend.” “I wish that I don’t have to go back there.” That’s the unfortunate part about compensation is: One, we don’t have that much; and secondly, it’s really not as much a motivator as it is a satisfier.

…there are a lot of things that we noticed with great leaders that we study, that they spend a lot more time with their people than they do in leadership meetings or meetings with customers. In many cases, the best leaders we’ve interviewed spend about 75% of their time with their employees, helping them. 

Denver: Let’s flip the script here and go away from those myths and to some of the best practices. One of them that you talk about is walking in other people’s shoes, and you tell a story about Fairmont Hotels. Share that. 

Adrian: I love that story. One of the senior leaders we interviewed is the Vice President of operations. One of the things that Fairmont requires all of their senior leaders to do is to spend at least one day a year — it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really does help — one day a year in a client-facing position, working, say, with catering, working in housekeeping, working with the front desk people. And you have to check-in; you turn in your phone, and you work with these people for the full day. 

And so, the CEO or the VP that we interviewed, he said — it was really interesting — he says, “The last time I did this, this year, I was in housekeeping.” And he says, “Immediately, because I’ve got my MBA and I’m really smart, I go in there and I start thinking of ways that they can improve what they’re doing.” And he says, “I’ve realized you can’t do that. You can’t go in there telling them how to do their jobs when you’re still learning because you figure out they do have a method behind the madness here. OK. I see that.” And he says, “It’s a hard job. So, eight hours later, as we clocked back out, by then I could offer a couple of ideas. ‘You know, one thing I saw that you might do is this or this.’ But better yet though is I developed more empathy for the job so that when we’re having our executive team meetings, I can talk about, ‘You know, one thing that our housekeepers need is this or this.’ And I have a lot more empathy for them.”

And so, while that is a sort of a big ask for leaders to spend time like that, there are a lot of things that we noticed with great leaders that we study, that they spend a lot more time with their people than they do in leadership meetings or meetings with customers. In many cases, the best leaders we’ve interviewed spend about 75% of their time with their employees, helping them. 

When you think about gratitude, one of the ways we start showing gratitude to our people is to listen to their input.

Denver: Get outside the building, and find out what’s going on. 

Solicit and act on input. Now, that doesn’t seem like gratitude in the classic sense, but it does do a lot for morale, and it can be so important. Tell us about that. 

Adrian: It really is. When you think about gratitude, one of the ways we start showing gratitude to our people is to listen to their input. A lot of leaders will tell me — we do a lot of executive coaching, and so sometimes leaders will say, “Look, I’ve tried that. Employees have these wacky ideas. Then they get offended if you don’t use their ideas.” There are ways to do this. 

One of the leaders we interviewed for the book was Quint Snyder, who at the time was an administrator of a large hospital system. One of the things that he did when he started in this role, administrator of a big hospital, he says, “I would park out in the employee lot, not in the administrative spot that’s right next to the building. As I would walk in each day, I would ask employees what I could do for them.”  He’d say, “Look. I’m Quint. I’m the new administrator here.  I work for you. So what can I do to help you today?” And he says, “from the way they looked at me, they were kind of thinking, ‘Well, maybe go take a drug screen?'” But he says, “No. I’m really here for you.” 

And he says, “So as we’re walking in one of the first days, I had one of the nurses. She says, ‘Look. I park out on the back 40 there. Those bushes have overgrown. We’re in a sketchy neighborhood,’ she says. ‘One day, I come out at night, I’m worried that there’s somebody hiding in there going to grab me or something. If you want to do something for me, trim those bushes so I can see if there’s anybody behind there.’ And he says, “OK.” 

And she said, by the time she came back out after her 12-hour shift, not only had he had maintenance trim the bushes — they’re all clear, she could see right through — he’d also had them assemble a fence to separate the parking lot from the neighborhood. And he said that story started getting around, and other ones did, too. And he says, “When you start doing little things…” and there are ways that we talk in the book about how you help employees understand not every idea can be used, and here’s how we debate respectfully. But boy, when you start sharing those ideas, it’s very powerful.

Denver: I can see that.  Let’s talk about recognition. And so many places I go to in organizations, I ask them about the recognition program, and they show me a program. And it’s pretty much: “When somebody does this, they get this.” But you maintain customizing gratitude can be so important. Talk about it. 

Adrian: That’s a great point. No, we’re not denigrating recognition programs. There’s a place for them, but it becomes very formal. “OK. Well, Denver, you had a good podcast, so I’m going to recog–I’m going to nominate you for this.” And it’s going to take three weeks, and it goes up the chain. And then it becomes really very corporate, if you will.  And so again, there’s a place for that… But really what we’re talking about is really personalizing.

One of the stories we tell in the book is actually, me and Chester, my co-author. Twenty years ago, when we first wrote our first leadership book, we worked for a big company. And Chester, his top motivators are ideas like teamwork, fun, friendship. That’s what drives him. Those motivators for me, out of our 23 human motivators, fall, I think, 16, 19, 21. My top motivators are ideas like creativity, autonomy, family. So I love to work independently. Then, at the end of the day, I want to go be with my family and things. So very different motivators than Chester, who wants to… if you send him to a network at a conference, he probably won’t come back.  He just loves to meet new people. 

So Chester went to the CEO after we wrote our first book and said, “I want to recognize Adrian. We want to recognize him. Let’s get him recognized!” And so how does he suggest I be recognized? In the same way that he wanted to be recognized. “Let’s invite him to the gala sales banquet with all these people he doesn’t know. He’ll meet all these new friends. It’s in the evening, so he’ll get to dress up and go out. And…” 

Denver: What a nightmare! 

Adrian: Exactly! So for somebody who loves to work more autonomously and loves creativity, I was with a bunch of people I didn’t know, on a weeknight, away from my family,  just sitting there waiting for them to present me…

Denver: Waiting for it to be over!

Adrian: Waiting for them to present me a watch because Chester loves watches. Well, I don’t wear a watch.  

And so, now, he meant well, and the CEO meant well, and I appreciated that. But later we started talking about this, and we realized we didn’t really understand each other’s core motivators and what drives us because if they had come to me and said, “Look, we love the book you wrote. We’re going to give you, reward you by giving you a project you can work on independently and use your creativity. Or some time to be with your family.” That would have meant so much more. 

And it actually led us to create what we call our motivators assessment. It’s a tool that helps you understand really what does motivate you internally. So it really did help us in our work actually. 

Denver: I think you tell the story in the book about somebody getting a $50 coupon to Starbucks for what she had done, and she doesn’t drink coffee.  It’s just this automatic thing. It’s laziness in some ways, too, just to get a program in place and then continue it. 

Adrian: And we think it works. The one we mentioned, the Starbucks guy, he was with DHL, the big logistics company, and he thought everybody loved the Starbucks cards that he was giving them. And one of the guys you mentioned, one of the women that he worked for, we finally pushed him to say, “Go check with your employees and see if they really like this.” Many did, but several didn’t drink coffee, like this woman. She said, “I give those coffee cards to my neighbor because I don’t drink.” But he loves it. He drives in, he goes through Starbucks on his way to work, and he says, “I realized I’ve been recognizing my employee’s neighbor.” And so…

Denver: Now, there is that assumption –“If I like it, everybody must like it.” 

When I started in the workforce, Adrian, I really cared about being recognized by my boss, by my boss’s boss, and my leaders. But I think today, even more than back then, peer-to-peer recognition is so critical and so vital. Talk about that and how it can be done effectively. 

Adrian: You’re exactly right.  Peer-to-peer and boss-to-employee recognition, do recognize very different things. 

When a manager recognizes me, I realize that my manager sees the value that I’m creating and sees that I have maybe potential to increase or to do more, to grow, et cetera. When my peers recognize me, it’s for very different things. It typically is for ideas like dependability, or you’re part of the team. You have my back. And they’re very different ideas, but they’re also very important because I realized that my peers see a lot more than my boss does.

And so it’s interesting. One of the companies we actually worked with years ago was Zappos, way before they got bought by Amazon. Tony Hsieh, their CEO, was very proud. He says, look, “We have seven recognition programs here, but six of them are peer-to-peer. We give our peers budget. We give them ideas. We give them ways that they can recognize each other.” And he says, “It’s very powerful to make sure…” He says, “So we don’t wait just for this to be a boss-down idea.” 

So the idea was — and we spent some time in their Las Vegas call center. And so if you’re my colleague, and I see you on the phone and you’ve got a terribly angry customer because they got the wrong order, and you turned it around, one of the ideas they had was I submit your name and what you did and put it in the little suggestion box. And in their huddles at morning and night, they opened these up and they read them,  and — this is part of their culture — instead of everybody clapping, they all snap their fingers.

Denver: That’s what they do, right.

Adrian: Yes. “Let’s give Denver some snaps.” 

Denver: Yes, some snaps.

Adrian: It doesn’t work for everybody, but it does work in their culture. That’s what great cultures do is: they find what works for them. 

Denver: And what they also do is they keep that peer-to-peer really simple, and they tie it to their values.

Adrian: Absolutely. Love them.  

Really, the only answer to gratitude is “Thank you.” If we add all these explanations of why wasn’t this or that, we really do diminish the gratitude that somebody is offering us…When somebody responds back, you just say, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” That’s enough. 

Denver: You said that people can learn to express gratitude, and I know that can be very difficult for some people, like people accepting a compliment. Sometimes they have a hard time really doing that and they just feel awkward. What are some of the practices or exercises people can do to get better at showing gratitude to others?

Adrian: It’s a great question because you’re right. Sometimes this will happen or somebody will say, “Oh my gosh.  What a nice shirt you’re wearing!” “Oh, this old thing? Oh my gosh. I look terrible in this.” We tend to do that. We also do it with our work. ” Hey, Denver. Thanks so much for your help on that project. That was just exactly what we’re looking for.” “It wasn’t my best work.” We tend to denigrate ourselves. 

Really, the only answer to gratitude is “Thank you.” If we add all these explanations of why wasn’t this or that, we really do diminish the gratitude that somebody is offering us. And it’s a really tough trick to learn, especially for a manager, too, who’s trying to do this. When somebody responds back, you just say, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” That’s enough. 

Denver: Are there new ways of recognizing and expressing gratitude since the lockdown in COVID? Have you been seeing some things? 

Adrian: Definitely have. This is a time where part of gratitude as well, as we talked about developing empathy, is checking in with people. And it’s not just “How are you doing?” It’s “How are you doing today?” And then digging down below when you come back to me going: “Oh, fine.” “Really? Because this is what I’m feeling.” And it’s being a lot more vulnerable. And that is part of gratitude because you’re helping people express what they’re feeling right now. There’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of stress out there, and that is part of it. 

Now, the other part of being grateful, of course, is seeing what’s happening — but you have to be extremely vigilant about this. And when you do see somebody doing so great, “Oh, great. You submitted that new proposal…”  When we get on a one-to-one, we get on a Zoom or Skype or whatever you use, and we see each other eye to eye as best we can in this virtual world, and I tell you, “Hey, thanks. Let me tell you why this means so much to our team.” And I’m very specific. 

But we’re also… another thing, too, I noticed as well is a lot of leaders now are recognizing for behaviors that are really important. For instance, responsiveness has amped up beyond anything we can imagine because with a lot of people being remote, I’ll send a request and then I’m not hearing anything.  What are people doing? So you reward the positive. “Hey, Sheila, thanks so much for being so responsive. Getting back to me in that hour, that meant the world to me because I was able to do…”  You’re recognizing the value, the behaviors that help you in a remote or a COVID world, if you will.

Denver: And you’re shaping the behaviors for the rest of the organization because they see them being reinforced in that way. 

Adrian: Absolutely, which is why you probably do — well, you should be doing this more in the public zoom meetings, or if you’re back in the office, you’re doing it in front of everybody in every meeting you’re having. 

Denver: Finally, Adrian, people take this message to heart and they begin to really learn to express gratitude at work. But sometimes that is where it begins and ends. And your final chapter is called “Take it Home.” Tell us about it. 

Adrian: Right. We actually finished the last quarter or so of the book on ideas about how you do take it home.

One of the things we noticed — one of my executive coaching clients, he admitted this to me the other day. He’s an administrator of a hospital system. He says, “In this world, I’m working so hard to keep my employees pumped up to deal with angry people. Stresses are so high.” He says, “I get home…  I’ve given my best. I’ve got nothing left to give. “

Denver: Nothing left!

Adrian: “–I have to veg — watch TV and kind of veg out,  and things are not very good at home because of that.” The wife and kids are not happy with him. So we do tend to do that sometimes. We tend to give our best at work and at home or vice versa.

So really, that’s why the last chapter really is ideas we have learned from many of these people we interviewed and executives, CEOs of big companies, as well as others, just some really cool people who had some great ideas about how you bring a little bit more gratitude into the home. 

 One of my favorite ideas was for my guy named Dave Kerpen we interviewed. He runs a big marketing firm in New York. He says, “During this COVID time, we’d be sitting at dinner, and we’d ask the kids, ‘What’d you do today?’ ‘Nothing. You were here, dad. Nothing.’ ‘OK. So great. OK. So…’ and that was about the conversation. We just mumble and kind of go through dinner.” And he says, “I realized I had to change it up.”

He says, “So I began asking three questions. The first question is: What was your favorite part of your day? And I’d really have to push them. And if they said ‘nothing,’ then…no, that’s not how you…we can’t eat until you tell me your favorite part of the day. Second was: Who are you grateful for who’s not at the table? ‘Well, maybe grandma sent me a message today. It was kind of nice to get somebody from the outside to send me a message.’ Great. Final question is: Who are you grateful for who’s at the table who hasn’t been thanked yet and why? Not just mom. ‘Mom because she made me lunch today, and she cut the sandwich like I like it.’”

He says, “When I first started this, my kid’s crazy hated it. Now, they’re calling their friends excited about, ‘OK. Help me think of some things that I’m going to say today because…’ and he says, “It’s become one of our rituals.” And so, I’ve had a few of my executive coaching clients start this. And they said at first, everybody hates it, and within a couple of weeks, it really does get people to just think more positively about their days and their lives. 

Denver: It’s sort of like the difference of asking somebody where they grew up, and then having them say “Chicago.” And then asking them, “What was it like to grow up in Chicago?” It just changes the whole nature of the conversation when people begin to reflect like that. 

The book again is Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results. And when you think of all the money we invest to make our organizations and people better and more effective, the advice in this book, Adrian, is absolutely priceless.

I want to thank you so much for being here today. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program. 

Adrian: It was my pleasure. Thank you, Denver.

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