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01/24/2012

Six Effective/Affordable Ways For Improving Your Organization�s Morale, Motivation & Bottom Line

In most organizations, daily operations are so busy and stressful that showing gratitude is fairly low on the list of priorities. But according to Todd Patkin, cultivating an organizational culture of appreciation can be the best possible strategy for growing your business.

�If your organization hasn�t made a conscious effort to instill an attitude of gratitude into your organization, you�re ignoring one of your most useful and lucrative tools,� says Todd Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness: One Man�s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and Let the Sunshine In.

Patkin speaks from years of experience. For nearly two decades, he was instrumental in leading his family�s business, Autopart International, to new heights until it was finally bought by Advance Auto Parts in 2005. During that time, he learned just how valuable a culture of gratitude can be, and he made it his number-one priority to always put his people and their happiness first. (Even when his company had to stop throwing big holiday parties, it always gave a free turkey to each employee at Thanksgiving!)

�In so many organizations, employees go through their days assuming that their coworkers, and especially their bosses, don�t notice or appreciate all of the hard work that they do,� Patkin explains. �And if that�s the way you feel, you will just go through the motions. You won�t have any true motivation or dedication, and your productivity will be mediocre at best.�

In the midst of an already-tough economy, Patkin points out, this is the absolute last thing you want for your organization. In a very real way, he insists, tapping into the spirit of gratitude can tip the balance between either success and growth or stagnation and failure. Meaningful workplace gratitude is easiest to spark when it comes from leaders, but eventually that attitude will start to also spread between employees; from there, it�ll even trickle down to customers. All of that is great for business.

Helpful tips an attitude of gratitude:

Always say �thank you.� It�s easy to use the excuse that we don�t have time to hand out compliments and thanks like candy. But according to Patkin, though, there�s no better way to use your time. By taking just thirty seconds longer to get back to your office, you have improved another person�s mood, day, and productivity level. You�ll also be making yourself more approachable and likeable, and over time your team will begin to relate to you more positively.

�I will say that as a leader, I was somewhat unique in my company because I was a big hugger. Once my people recognized this as a sign of my appreciation and esteem, they would start to worry if I saw them and didn�t end our conversation with a hug! Yes, it�s somewhat countercultural, but I encourage you to incorporate hugs or literal pats on the back into your own repertoire, assuming you can do so safely and comfortably. Lastly, remember to acknowledge it when someone else gives you a compliment or a thank you � it�s important for others to know that their gratitude is noticed and appreciated in order for it to continue.�

� Take intent into account. The fact is, when you�re in a position to make a grand gesture of gratitude, your intentions may be consistently good�but your plans might not always be as successful as you�d hoped. Patkin recalls coming up with many show-the-love schemes. He would send high achievers to sports games, highlight various employees in company newsletters, plan lavish company parties, and hold raffles, to name a few examples. Sometimes those plans were well received; other times they weren�t.

�Inevitably, there will always be some negativity. So you need to remember that despite negative feedback, showing gratitude is always the right thing � and employees probably loved your gesture. Also, if the shoe is on the other foot and an expression of gratitude that�s aimed at you misses the mark, say thank you for the thought and go on about your day.�

� Start being more open. In your average office, communication is far from completely open. No one wants to bug the boss unnecessarily or meddle in a coworker�s projects. This sort of �keep-to-yourself� culture doesn�t tend to foster total understanding or genuine gratitude.

�If you�re a leader, constructively tell your people how they can improve their performances,� he says. And no matter where you fall on your company�s hierarchy, learn how to receive constructive criticism � if you don�t accept advice and requests well, you�ll stop getting them and you�ll stop improving. Essentially you�ll be stuck right where you are.

However, when everyone is committed to openness and to sparking growth, there will be more improvements, more success, and more opportunities to show genuine gratitude. Showing others that you care enough to either help them or to improve yourself is a form of gratitude in and of itself. That�s because you�re demonstrating that your team is worth the investment of your time, energy, and advice.

� Learn to graciously accept thanks. Yes, giving thanks is a very important building block when it comes to cultivating a gratitude culture in your organization. But how you respond to appreciation is also important. If you brush off compliments or ignore expressions of gratitude � no matter what your reason � you�ll eventually stop hearing �thanks!� altogether. Plus you�ll be discouraging the person complimenting you from reaching out to others in the same way.

� Keep the gratitude going outside of your organization. Once you notice that those two important words � thank you � are being uttered on a regular basis in your office, make an effort to extend them outside of the people on your payroll. It�s vital to let those whom you serve know how much they mean to you so that they don�t take their business elsewhere. Thank your customers or the people you serve for choosing your organization, and for trusting your team. This is something that many clients don�t hear, so when they do, their loyalty to your company is strengthened.

�I used to encourage my store managers to treat their clients like kings � I�d ask them to write thank-you notes after big sales and to send birthday cards to loyal customers. Our firm also frequently sent drivers with coolers full of sodas around to our accounts when it was especially warm out. Once we even rented an ice cream truck to visit our best customers so that they could have a free frozen treat on a hot day. Over time, this strategy of appreciation brought us more business and it caused our customers to be less price-conscious.�

� Use gratitude to reinforce stellar performances. Remember that repeated positive feedback towards a worker, will reinforce that behavior. Using gratitude to shape your team�s habits and priorities can be every bit as valuable as training programs and industry conferences � at a fraction of the time and cost.

�Gratitude is an amazing motivator,� Patkin concludes, �it strengthens employee and customer loyalty, and it really can allow you to see a positive change in your company�s bottom line. And especially in today�s not-so-stellar economic environment, it�s extra-important to give your people something to be positive about and thankful for.�

(Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy.)



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