How Leaders Can Cultivate Cultures of Gratitude & Joy

Jan 20, 2020
How Leaders Can Cultivate Cultures of Gratitude & Joy

Over the last years we have been exposed to an overwhelming amount of studies and evidence of how our mindsets, emotions and habits not only influence our personal well-being, but also the health of our work cultures and the impact it has on business results.


Neuroscientific studies show how different our brains react to positive emotions like gratitude and joy compared to negative emotions like discontentment or anger. Our brains on positive are creative, effective and intellectually smart. Our brains on negative; not so much. 

Harvard’s happiness researcher Shawn Achor states in his book “The Happiness Advantage” that the single greatest advantage in today’s economy is a happy and engaged workforce, and shows for a decade of research that proves that happiness raises nearly every business outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements. 

After 12 years of research and 11 000 pieces of data, Dr. Brené Brown concluded there is a strong relationship between gratitude and joy. Not one person she had interviewed who described themself as joyful, did not also actively practice gratitude. 

While studies show that “natural” levels of gratitude are influenced by genes, brains and personalities and linked to our physical and mental well-being, everyone, through some simple routines and practices, can learn how to bring a bit more gratitude – and joy – into their lives.

While most workplaces today may not be bustling with gratitude and joy (the majority of the global workforce say they are not engaged in their jobs); it is my hope that when more leaders get exposed to the overwhelming business benefits of cultivating these kind of cultures, things will begin to change.

Here are a few, simple leadership practices to help you get started:

  • praise generously and immediately, whenever you catch someone in doing something great.
  • focus on people’s strengths, not on their weaknesses.
  • say “Thank You” to the people you lead, and say it often.
  • start meetings with acknowledging or complimenting someone for positive behaviors. Send encouraging emails and be specific.
  • have a “gratitude board” where people are encouraged to write things they are grateful to each other for. Encourage people to share their gratitudes freely.
  • inspire everyone in the team to create a personal gratitude journal – by creating one for yourself.
  • create a positive, inspiring, psychologically safe work culture where people will feel happy and grateful for coming to work in the morning.

A study from Deloitte shows that highly engaged teams are 57% more effective, have employees that are 87% less likely to leave, and have 2,3 times higher revenue growth than less engaged teams. With these kind of outcomes; you can bet that your company’s shareholders will be happy & grateful too.