The dictionary defines “gratitude” as the quality of being thankful, showing readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness. It is my opinion that gratitude in general is in short supply these days.
Think of how you feel when someone offers a heartfelt word of appreciation for something you have done. Better yet, note how good you feel when you receive a handwritten note that compliments you in an unexpected way.
At MidWestOne, our second operating principle is to “hire and retain good employees.” The fourth operating principle is to “work as One team.” We attempt to hire employees who understand the meaning of teamwork. We believe that one of the hallmarks of a good employee is someone who has an aptitude of understanding the importance of gratitude and that life isn’t always “all about me.”
A grateful employee is one who isn’t afraid or too self-conscious to proactively reach out and say “thank you.” All other things being equal, if one puts 10 grateful employees together, one has a good start on a great team as well as a strong culture.
A few years ago, our Chief Operating Officer, Sue Evans, came up with a novel idea. The last Friday of each month would be designated as “Gratitude Friday.” Each employee is encouraged to send a note of gratitude to someone. That means a handwritten note, not an e-mail or a text! Perhaps it is a colleague at work. It might be a customer of the bank. It might be someone in the not-for-profit sector who is performing good deeds on a daily basis. It could be an elected official you admire and respect. It could be anyone!
The point is that when we reach out and express sincere gratitude, there is really little downside. Goodwill is being created and built. Building goodwill is no small matter in any enterprise. Our company now has approximately 650 employees. If every employee sent a handwritten note one Friday per month, that translates into nearly 8,000 notes sent over a year’s time! This is a very healthy exercise in the development of a strong culture. A strong culture will elevate a company in good times and sustain it in the bad times.
I once heard that former President, George H.W. Bush, maintained an active file of 5,000 correspondents. It was said that he corresponded with this large group by sending handwritten notes on index cards. The notes were never long, but they were from the heart. How many spirits were lifted because of Mr. Bush’s attention to the “little things?” Think about it: a former President who is in the twilight of a life very well lived, but still taking the time to spread light and warmth.
Gratitude Friday. If it is good enough for Mr. Bush, it is good enough for me. How about you?