Think of the common ways we express gratitude to each other. A verbal “thank you,” a thank you card, maybe a gift basket or gift card. These are all nice gestures — and we should do them — but they can feel generic.
So how do we avoid that?
With something called “incarnational gratitude.” (Give me a chance to explain before that big term scares you away!) Incarnational gratitude is how you SHOW and LIVE your gratitude in meaningful ways. More than just a gift or signed card, incarnational gratitude fuses gratefulness into the everyday life of your workplace and the ongoing interactions between you and your team members.
So how do you do it? Here are 7 examples you can use to show incarnational gratitude for your work team:
1. When times are tough, get in the trenches with your team.
One of the greatest fears employees have is being abandoned when times are tough. When the difficult client calls for a meeting, when the work is demanding, or when a task seems insurmountable, nothing shows your team that you’re grateful for their effort more than when you roll up your sleeves and dig in with them. When you step up for your team, they will step up their work for you and the company.
2. Make everyday moments special.
Holidays and birthdays are easy times to make people feel special, but you don’t need to wait for those to show your gratitude. With a little planning and creativity, any day or moment is an opportunity.
Mondays, Fridays, anniversaries, half-anniversaries, first day of the month, middle day of the month, start of a shift, end of a shift, milestones within a project, or completely invented moments – when you show gratitude and celebrate your team during unexpected moments, it can feel more special because you are celebrating without an obligation to. This can add a lot of positive energy and value to your team.
3. Celebrate when you catch employees doing thankless work.
Be intentional about looking for those who are handling tasks no one else wants or notices and who are supporting the team behind the scenes in a way that makes others shine and be successful. When you look for these moments and celebrate them, you will motivate your team to live these behaviors as well.
4. Empower your team to make decisions.
Very few people like to be micromanaged, and all people want to feel they are valuable contributors to the good of the company. One of the most powerful ways we show our team we are grateful for their work is by empowering them to make decisions and take responsibility. They can’t make valuable contributions — or feel your gratitude — without it.
5. Listen to your team. Deeply.
Many surveys have shown that one of the greatest frustrations people have with their leadership at work is a lack of listening. To show incarnational gratitude, nothing is simpler (or more meaningful) than scheduling and prioritizing time to listen to your team. Find out how things are going for them. See what’s frustrating them and what ideas they have to solve those frustrations. Really, truly, deeply listen. Even if you learn nothing new, the sheer act of listening is a gift to your team.
6. Help your team see and grow into their future (at your company or beyond.)
Help your team members see, plan, and grow into their best future, wherever it takes them. Great leaders invest in their team and want to see them grow, and we show gratitude for their work by pouring INTO them while we ask for great work OUT OF them.
Could team members leave your company in the future? Yes. Is that hard? Yes. But as leaders and team members, we should want the best for our people knowing that’s also what’s best for our company. Ironically, the less tightly we hold onto team members and the more space we give them to grow, learn, and thrive, the more likely they are to stay with us.
7. Reinvent the gift basket.
There are times when a gift basket is warranted. When possible, use it as an opportunity to customize the gift and celebrate the team member or client who will receive it. It doesn’t have to be fully customized; even the smallest of touches show you care and are well worth your time and effort.
Do your employees know you are thankful for their work, their commitment, and their time at your company? Start incorporating these seven examples into your everyday interactions and they’re sure to!