Here in America, we think of Thanksgiving as a precious time to spend and celebrate with family. I know I'm looking forward to good conversations, amazing food, and great football myself.

And let's be honest, how many of us are right now counting down the minutes until we leave our workplaces for the holidays? Some of us have already left, I'm sure.

And often, the people we spend the most time with during the week -- our peers and coworkers -- are not even registered on our radar screen during this time of giving thanks.

Leaders, take note.

If you're in a leadership role, consider what the literature is saying. Employees that are engaged and perform better will always receive some sort of genuine thanks and gratitude through recognition, praise, and rewards for doing good work.

In fact, one of the questions from the popular Gallup Q12 engagement survey asks this of employees about their immediate managers:

In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

If your direct reports answered this question with a 'yes' or 'no' how would you do?

The companies in Gallup's study with the highest engagement levels use recognition as a powerful means to get their commitment. It's such a powerful motivator. In fact, they recommend that praise should be given once per week. You heard me right.

3 things to do before Thanksgiving break

Leaders, I'd like to propose that you do a quick three-item exercise to elevate the spirits of your people (as well as yourself!). Do this before you leave for the break. Even if you have left already, no biggie. You can try this quick exercise upon your return from the break.

1. Make a list of 5 people at work for which you are thankful. This includes people that report to you whose relationships you value.

2. Reflect on those things you just listed. Think back on the key contributions, accomplishments, or events that have happened during the calendar year involving these people. Make it come alive in your heart and mind as you relive the moments.

3. Seek out those people on your list and express your gratitude to them. Whatever your method (email, text, hand-written note or phone call), make it personal and heartfelt. Let these people know how special they are to you. Let them know how you feel about them, their work, and what it means for you and your team to have them there.

What science is saying this will do.

Positive psychologist Shawn Achor, best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, says that by simply expressing gratitude for two minutes a day for a period of 21 straight days -- get this -- is the fastest way to learn optimism. Two minutes!

This activity trains your brain to scan for positives instead of negatives. It will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

In fact, as a result of raising your optimism, Achor says your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, and your energy level rises -- giving you a clear, competitive advantage at work.

The clincher? Achor says the brain at this state can increase productivity by 31 percent. We're talking about a 2-minute gratitude exercise, folks!

If you want a more concise plan-of-action with a to-do list on these principles, I wrote this article specifically for you. Start applying it today.

Closing thoughts.

While optimism has tremendous science-backed benefits, the point I want to stress goes back to how I began this article. Let's not take our workers for granted. In this great time of thanksgiving and need, express your gratitude as a leader for the many blessings that come from the work produced by those entrusted under your care.

Happy thanksgiving from all of us at Leadership from the Core!