Being grateful in our everyday lives is actually a powerful strategy for improving our effectiveness as leaders and strengthening the relationships we all rely on. In study after study, social scientists have proven that a grateful person can go further and accomplish more.
Here are five practical ways that gratitude can give entrepreneurs a competitive advantage:
1. Managing stress
Entrepreneurs live with a lot of stress, and it has serious impacts. One study found that 72 percent of entrepreneurs self-reported at least one mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
Gratitude is a powerful force for supporting our physical and emotional health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and they are less impacted by negative emotions like envy, resentment, and frustration. They are also more emotionally resilient.
Being grateful is an easy and positive way to counterbalance the many challenges that entrepreneurs face.
2. Networking and relationship building
Research has found that being grateful to someone is a wonderful way to make a positive first impression. Simply saying "thank you" or writing a short note of thanks to someone who did something nice for you makes that person much more likely to seek an ongoing relationship with you. It also increases the likelihood that the two of you will have a higher quality relationship.
This is an effective--and kind--way to break down barriers with new business acquaintances. And it can strengthen existing professional relationships with colleagues and partners as well.
3. Gaining and retaining customers
Everyone enjoys being thanked, and they enjoy returning to places where they feel appreciated. Many business owners can tell stories about how thanking their customers--either with a simple "I appreciate your business" or offering tangible gifts like discounts--helped their bottom line.
Gratitude has been linked with higher self-esteem and an increased sense of loyalty, both of which help turn new customers into repeat customers. Saying thank you is a simple way to make your customers feel great about purchasing your product or service.
4. Motivating Employees
Americans tend to give ten times more negative feedback than positive feedback. And this is probably truer in the workplace than anywhere else. But according to CEO and coach Dr. Camille Preston, "gratitude, when it's genuine, has the power to help transform the emotional bankruptcy we feel when confronted with negative feedback."
As much as 71 percent of American employees don't feel fully engaged at work, and feeling unappreciated is one of the top reasons why. Preston recommends promoting employee engagement and motivation not through critical feedback but tailored appreciation.
A study in the Journal of Psychological Science backs her up: Gratitude has a positive influence on managers' relationships with their direct reports. Employees feel more trusted, are more satisfied, perform better, and experience more organizational loyalty when they are appreciated.
5. Maintaining a happier family life
No one can build a new venture without help. Those closest to you--significant others, family members, and close friends--have likely given up time and resources to bolster your dream. We can forget to thank the people right in front of us, but they need it just as much as anyone else.
In addition to all the ways in which saying thank you can strengthen bonds, practicing gratitude has also been linked directly with marital quality. It reduces the risk of divorce and helps couples bounce back from conflict. And when your main relationships are doing well, you will be more effective and productive in the workplace.
Any time is a good time to begin practicing a little more gratitude. Start a gratitude journal and record 3-5 things a day that you're thankful for. Make it a goal to express appreciation to at least two people each day. It won't take long before you begin to see and experience the resulting goodness.