Today, I learned that our next door neighbor died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I’m incredulous and in a state of shock wondering “How could this have happened to him?” It made me stop and think about the beloved friends and family I’ve lost over the years. I’m thinking that “You don’t know how much you value someone until they’re gone” and that I don’t count my own blessings as often as I should. I also wonder “How many others are like me?”
However, in stark contrast, I have found that this country’s most respected, productive and longest tenured healthcare executives are quite different than most of us. Truly exceptional leaders are different from most others in that they are deliberate in recognizing and rewarding the various contributions that people at all levels of their organizations make. They actively leverage some proven, psychological guidelines of positive reinforcement:
- You get more of what you reward (or “You reap what you sow”)
- You must reinforce the desired behaviors immediately after they occur.
In our work and research studies with these extraordinary leaders, we’ve also found that they are genuine and specific in sharing their heartfelt gratitude. They naturally connect with others, know that most people often can smell “insincere politicians” a mile away, and that ungrateful, self-serving, narcissistic managers and higher level leaders typically are toxic to everyone around them and to their hospitals. That’s what prompted one highly effective CEO to terminate the COO he inherited, who “only had the ability to look up”.
Ironically, showing gratitude is not a zero sum game and often produces wins for everyone involved. It doesn’t cost much to give. And, the multiple, proven benefits of expressing gratitude are too great for healthcare executives to ignore. For example, grateful patients and family members have some often overlooked, bona fide psychological needs to express their appreciation for their caregivers. Denying them such chances also can adversely impact their patient satisfaction scores and addition significant sources of revenue for hospitals. The various benefits enjoyed by deserving exceptional caregivers are profound, and only increase the likelihood of enjoying easily achievable wins.
I was delighted to discover one powerful example of recognition as I walked down the corridor of a major academic medical center just last week. Several beautiful, prominently displayed individual pictures of various hospital personnel had been hung strategically near the cafeteria. These were accompanied by the photograph and personal story of one of their physician leaders who inspired this collection. His father had taught him to value everyone’s contributions and to recognize that everyone plays a vital role in an organization’s success.
Every individual in an organization plays a vital role in its success. To achieve the greatest return on investment of gratitude, you need to create a culture which intentionally and systematically recognizes and rewards great performances across all levels of your organization.
Exceptional leaders need to serve as role models in sharing their gratitude. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start today.
Please share some of your own experiences in which you’ve seen how people’s lives and careers have been transformed simply by others expressing gratitude for their great work!