Frank Blake, the former CEO of Home Depot, used to set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to write handwritten thank you notes to stand out employees. Throughout his career, Blake wrote more than 25,000 notes to everyone from managers to hourly employees. During his tenure as CEO from 2007 through to 2014, Blake led Home Depot to a remarkable corporate turnaround during an economic downturn. Frank Blake’s success as a leader is no coincidence; As the CEO, he led Home Depot to success with a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is an often-overlooked aspect of leadership, and this week we’ll discuss the power it has to make you a better leader and yield positive results for your company.
As mentioned in our blog from last week, simply being grateful for the life you live, your friends and family, and your health has a wide range of health benefits (both mental and physical). Studies show that being grateful strengthens our immune systems, aids in better sleep, acts as a natural antidepressant, and increases longevity. Simply put, if you’re a healthy and happier person, you’ll perform better as the leader of your company. Gratitude also increases productivity. For one, when we feel better, we’ll automatically perform better. On a conceptual level, by embodying a spirit of gratitude, you let go of controlling the outcomes in life and in business and allow the chips to fall where they may. Lastly, gratitude keeps leaders grounded. Being grateful has the power to eliminate two common mental characteristics among leaders that work to undermine individual success: egotism and arrogance.
As it relates to your company, it’s quite simple. The culture of a company starts with its leader: the CEO. People want to work with and for people who appreciate them. In 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs — an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce. 57% cited that they quit their jobs because they felt underappreciated and disrespected by company leadership. John Maxwell says, “What we appreciate appreciates, and what we depreciate depreciates.” As the CEO of your company, leading with gratitude is essential to cultivating a culture where employees actually want to come to work and put their best foot forward instead of feeling like a cog in a machine. And gratitude isn’t something that’s simply nice to have — it can yield tangible results. The American Psychological Association found that over 90% of employees who feel valued perform better and stay engaged at work. Other studies have found that high-performing teams receive twice the amount of appreciation from their teammates each month and twice the amount of appreciation from their managers compared to other teams.
Gratitude is a cornerstone of many of the most successful companies throughout the US. At Southwest Airlines, the company appreciates employees by paying attention to special events in their personal lives—from birthdays to children’s graduations to marriages —and recognizing those with small gestures like flowers and cards. “We’re all encountering different obstacles in our life, we’re all celebrating different things in our life,” says Cheryl Hughey, managing director of culture at Southwest. At Hubspot, employees can give a $1000 bonus to any employee they want who has either helped them in some way or who they think deserves recognition for great work during each quarter. For the third year in a row, Walmart decided to close all of its stores on Thanksgiving. “Closing our stores on Thanksgiving Day is one way we’re saying ‘thank you’ to our teams for their dedication and hard work this year. We hope everyone will take the opportunity to be with their loved ones during what’s always a special time,” said COO of Walmart, Dacona Smith. These gestures, while seemingly small, make employees feel valued, and in turn can yield positive results for your company.