#36: Why Gratitude Makes You a More Powerful Leader

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This episode is all about gratitude. Not Thanksgiving style, everyday style. We talk about how gratitude makes you a better leader, starting with surrender — and appreciating your own life so you can appreciate the people you work with and for.

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About Jen McFarland

Jen McFarland Consulting podcast

For over 12 years I’ve tackled business problems and provided simple, powerful solutions. I’ve led 7-figure projects and helped entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive.

I teach women how to build their business, not around spreadsheets, bottom lines, and formulas, but around equity, leadership, mindset, courage, and resilience — you know, the things we are born to do.

Are you starting a business? Confused about how to grow? Check out my favorite business growth tools.

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Transcript: Why Gratitude Makes You a More Powerful Leader

Hello and welcome to the Third Paddle podcast. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this episode, we talk about surrender and gratitude, and why these are two things that will just help you bring so much more joy and happiness to your life. All that and more here on the Third Paddle. [music]
Welcome to the Third Paddle podcast recorded at the Vandal lounge in beautiful southeast Portland, Oregon. Why the Third Paddle? Because even the most badass entrepreneurs get stuck up in Business Shit Creek. Management consultant Jeniffer McFarland is your third paddle helping you get unstuck.
Surrender. According to Merriam-Webster, surrender means, “To yield the power, control, possession of another upon compulsion or demand. Or to give (oneself) over to something.” It actually sounds a little unsafe, or at the very least, not like something you would want to do, at least not often, particularly as women, and especially during the current political climate and societal shifts that we are currently experiencing. Everything screams, “Resist. Resist. Resist. Stand up for yourself. Tell people how you feel. Get what’s yours.” I’m not here to disagree with that. But I am here to tell you that there’s a time and a place for surrender, for grace, for granting yourself the kindness to rest, to be present, to surrender your mind and body to the universe and ask, “What’s next?” and then listen for the answer.
This morning I was reading a book that suggested the importance of surrender during the sales process. I know it’s crazy, right? It’s author posited that after you extend your offer to the potential client, you need to take a surrendered position. You take that surrendered position while you let the person make the decision. You do so, so that you create space for the decision to happen. You give it some air, but you also are distancing yourself from the outcome because when you truly believe what you’re selling, that what you sell is– you’re not selling out of desperation or attachment to the outcome. You realize that you receive an aligned no without feeling desperation, just like you feel when you receive an aligned yes because you know there are more people to talk to. You don’t need to resist. There’s a time and a place for surrender. Surrendering is what allows us to receive grace and gratitude. And I’m not here to tell you I’ve always been open to that. I remember times when I’ve held onto things so tight, whether it was a job I disliked or a boyfriend I kept around for too long. This resistance to change kept me from receiving something better. It kept me from seeing the realities of my situation. This episode is all about gratitude. But how many times do we find ourselves pushing away gratitude, pushing away the good because we consider surrendering a weakness? Or maybe we fought so hard we don’t know any other way besides the fight, besides paddling upstream. I say we fight currents we have to fight, but sometimes, sometimes we need to rest and go with the flow, surrender. Allow yourself to be showered with gratitude for all of the goodness you bring to the world. [music]
Let’s just start with the basics. What is gratitude? It’s the quality of being thankful. Now, this isn’t some Thanksgiving special. Just last week I talked to the Native American woman who told me she doesn’t eat at all on Thanksgiving Day because she doesn’t acknowledge it as a holiday that should be celebrated. I get that. When you step back and look at the wars and the complete devastation of Native American lands, tribes, and culture, it’s understandable that not everyone views Thanksgiving Day through the same lens. No, this episode is about everyday gratitude. You see I think many people try and cram all of their gratitude into November, and then stuff themselves with turkey, roll over, watch a parade and football game, and move on to Christmas. My hope is that this episode will help you integrate gratitude into your daily routines, into your journaling, into your workplace, into your home. You see because when we all begin to consider what makes us feel thankful, happy to be alive and fortunate, we begin to see the good. Not only in other people, but also in ourselves. When we reflect in the morning on what we appreciate, then all of the crap that tends to weigh us down becomes a little lighter. I’m grateful to wake up to the sweetest, most caring man I’ve ever met each and every day. Take a minute. What do you appreciate? Did you smile when you thought about what you appreciate? I bet you did. You see your gratitude improves your attitude, towards yourself and others. Gratitude is nodded deeply to abundance. If you’re thankful for what has happened in the past, you’re more likely to think the future will be good. And then you’ll begin to see more opportunities. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.” You see gratitude begets more gratitude. There’s a serious multiplier effect. You begin to see it everywhere. I’m reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” It’s hard to be angry or jealous when you’re grateful. So you might be wondering how can you get started? There are a couple of different strategies available to you. One, you could start a gratitude journal. If you already have a journal, it’s as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every morning and three things you’re grateful for every night. Then you’re constantly reinforcing gratitude as part of your daily life. If that’s too much for you, then another way to begin is to share three things your grateful for each day with a spouse or a friend. I recommend doing this in the morning because thinking about positive things first thing tends to set the tone for the rest of the day. Oh, and each day needs to be something different. You can’t just say you’re grateful for the same three things every day. This is an accumulative process. Each day builds on the last. Over time you’ll begin to see not only the big things like having a roof over your head, but you’ll also begin to appreciate the small things like dew on the grass or the faint hint of purple as the leaves change each autumn. Another strategy that you can employ is creating a gratitude jar. So what do you need for a gratitude jar? Well, an empty jar or box, ribbon, paper for notes, creativity, gratitude. Creating a gratitude jar and placing it in a prominent place is an easy way to remind yourself and others to show gratitude. It’s great for the workplace, too. What it looks like is only limited by your creativity. For your own personal goals, I suggest doing it first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day. It’s so hard to be upset over the rest of the night or day when you reflect on kindness. A gratitude jar is awesome because you can easily share it with others. You can share it with family, students or co-workers. It can be goal-oriented, like sharing thanks while working with a team on a difficult project, or simply an ongoing reminder that can be shared during meetings. You can even have a virtual gratitude jar. For example, there’s a Facebook group called Gratitude Jar 2017 – and I’m sure there’s another one for 2018, and there will be one in 2019 – where people share photos, gratitude posts, and progress on their own gratitude jars. Not into Facebook? You could do something similar in your company’s intranet or with your friends via Slack. The truth is, gratitude is everywhere if you know where to look for it. All you need to do is set up some sort of system that will help you focus on what you appreciate. See, it all starts with you. Before you can even think about incorporating this into your leadership, you need to start by focusing on yourself and developing some self-awareness around how much gratitude do you share, how much grace you have for yourself and others. And then there are some pretty cool ways that you can incorporate it into your leadership. And we’re going to talk about that in the next segment. [music]
The first two segments were really a primer for how you can apply gratitude and surrender to your own life mostly so that you can set the stage for how do you incorporate that into your leadership style when you interact with others in the office, in your life, or even as a business owner. You see, expressing gratitude can be a game-changer at the office and in your life in general. Showing gratitude with a simple thank you is something most people learn as children. But now that you’re an adult, how often do you take the time to really show gratitude to your significant other, to your friends? What about professional contacts and colleagues? There’s a growing body of research to indicate that gratitude is more than a positive emotion. It improves your health and possibly the health of others. Some leaders choose to treat others as appliances or plug and play widgets, easily replaced at the drop of a hat. Have you ever worked someplace or with someone where you’re not valued, where your skills aren’t appreciated, where you don’t feel you’re being heard? I’m not suggesting people can’t be replaced. They can. But we are humans, not machines. We are not widgets. Widgets and appliances don’t have brains, emotions or free will. People leave organizations sometimes at the worst possible time. Gratitude is the antithesis of the appliance mindset. Gratitude gets you out of your own head so you can see all the good surrounding you. Not only that, but research shows that it can result in a pay it forward attitude. As Mark Goldstein writes, study after study has shown that no one is immune from the motivating effects of acknowledgment and thanks. In fact, research by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino has shown that saying thank you not only results in a reciprocal generosity where the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker but stimulates prosocial behavior in general. In other words, saying thanks increases the likelihood your employee will not only help you but help somebody else. In other words, gratitude makes us all better. How we treat people matters. And trust me, I’ve had my own transformational experience. It sounds so simple but how often do you tell the people around you how thankful you are for everything they do? In fact, how we treat people when the chips are down may be even more important, especially if you have a small team or a tight budget. People are more likely to run into the fire with you if you can see the good and thank people for it. If that’s not enough for you, here are five ways gratitude makes you a better leader. One, gratitude breeds success. Your success greatly depends on collaboration with other people. Even if your a solopreneur or just in the workplace, saying thank you and sharing success is attractive. “When you’re grateful, others like to be around you. Your appreciation includes and supports them. You help them see the positive elements inherent in daily life, and to feel more hopeful about the possibility of future success,” writes Erica Anderson. If you want to attract people like a moth to a light, show gratitude for others. People love being around someone with a positive vision for life’s possibilities.
Two, gratitude brings peace. I challenge you to be angry and grateful at the same time. Give it a try. You can’t have both anger and thankfulness. It’s your choice. You alone choose how to engage with a situation. Be grateful or be angry, sullen, and distressful. Then take it a step further, who would you rather be around? Being grateful helps you find not only inner peace but also peace against the chaos around us. When you shift how you view that world to a grateful mindset, it brings you peace. You start to see opportunity where it previously didn’t exist.
Three, gratitude opens doors. When you lead with gratitude, you see opportunity everywhere because you are choosing to see the good with the bad, and focus on the good rather than the bad. This is especially true when you’ve failed. If you are looking for a way to view failure from a new perspective, I recommend that you watch on YouTube the clip from Jocko Willink called GOOD. You see, Jocko doesn’t mention gratitude but what he’s talking about is when life hands you a disappointment, it’s also handing you an opportunity. When you can see the good and be grateful for something, even on your worst day, then you’ve already opened a new door. Want to stay bogged down? Focus on the failure, rehash it, fire people, burn bridges, blame everyone around you. Just remember those four fingers pointed back at you when you play the blame game. As a leader, the buck stops with you. If you and your organization want to move on from failure, focus on the opportunities that grew out of the experience. Focus on what went right and how to readjust your thinking and approach. Thank people for working hard even though the outcome wasn’t what you expected. Today’s failure might be tomorrow’s success. The ability to see the good and be grateful for it, regardless of the circumstances, opens infinitely more doors.
Four, gratitude builds resilience. Having gratitude while facing challenges builds resilience. When you are grateful for everything you have, you’re more likely to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move on when things don’t go right. Let’s face it, if you have a bed, electricity, water, and an internet connection, you have a lot to be grateful for. So think about how you treat others and yourself when life isn’t perfect. Stop beating yourself up and look at what went right, who to thank, and how to move forward. Blaming, wallowing, laying in bed all day rehashing the past, these actions are the opposite of resilience. Leaders look for the nuggets of wisdom and move forward. Being a sad sack about the past isn’t very resilient.
And five, gratitude increases trust. Showing gratitude in good times and bad increases trust. Have you ever worked for a volatile leader? Someone who’s great until things don’t go his or her way. If you want to build trust and reap the pay-it-forward benefits discussed earlier, show gratitude. As leaders, we need to avoid the zero-sum game and black and white thinking. The world isn’t all or nothing. We live in a maddening subtlety of gray. By showing others appreciation and support, by helping them see what’s great, you’re encouraging others to be hopeful and more successful. When you show consistent appreciation for the people around you, you are more likely to have people stand behind you when you have to make the tough decisions. How has gratitude helped you? Let me know on Twitter @ThirdPaddle or on Instagram, also, @third paddle. Thank you so much for listening. I’m grateful that you’re here.
Thank you for listening to The Third Paddle podcast. Be sure to catch every episode by subscribing on iTunes. To learn more, check out our website at www.thirdpaddle.com. The Third Paddle podcast is sponsored by Foster Growth LLC, online at www.fostergrowth.tech.

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