Establishing a Gratitude Culture
by Jennifer Radkey
In a busy world, and what sometimes seems to be an even busier industry, when do we stop to allow time for gratitude? And why should we?
The hospitality industry is built on the premise of providing a welcoming, friendly environment to guests. There have been countless articles written upon how to provide our guests with a positive and memorable experience.
Most of us are very aware of the need to thank our guests for their loyalty through customer appreciation programs, etc. We train our staff on the importance of thanking guests, ensuring that they will choose to visit our establishment again in the future.
To have a successful hospitality establishment our gratitude needs to go deeper than that. We don’t need to just thank our guests, we need to establish a culture of gratitude within our team; and it starts at the top.
Gratitude has been found to build stronger relationships, increase helping behaviours, improve quality of sleep, and just improve our overall well-being.
Martin P. Seligman, a psychologist at Penn State University, is one of the leading and founding psychologists in the field of Positive Psychology. His PERMA model dictates what well-being consists of: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Good Relationships, Meaning and Purpose, and Achievement/Accomplishment.
There are obviously many ways in which to achieve the five different components of PERMA, but one of the key character strengths that contributes to all of them is gratitude.
Why should we take on the responsibility of establishing gratitude within our team culture? Well, when you feel good about yourself you are more likely to share skills with others. You can be motivated to work harder and in turn inspire those around you to do so as well.
A team that feels appreciated and learns to be grateful for each other and for the opportunities and experiences the job affords them, is a team that will more likely stick together; support each other; work through problems more effectively; show compassion; embrace differences and creativity; and generally be stronger.
It Starts with You
So, how do we go about establishing a gratitude practice in our workplace? To do that you need to start with yourself.
People are smart—they can sense “fake” gratitude. It needs to be genuine. For some people, gratitude comes naturally; it is one of their character strengths. For others, expressing thanks may feel awkward, so gratitude needs to be practiced daily to build this skill.
Start by taking five minutes at the end of the day before you fall asleep and write down three good things that happened to you that day, and why they happened. Seligman calls this the Three Blessings activity.
Try this for a few weeks. Once you start taking just a few minutes each day to think about what went well, you will naturally find yourself seeking out and recognizing the good things in the moment.
Once you feel comfortable expressing gratitude, it’s time to share with your team and watch the magic happen!
There are countless ways of establishing a gratitude practice in your team culture. One simple way to start is to call team members out on the great stuff they do and genuinely thank them for it.
Example: There is a particularly challenging guest who is upset and taking out their frustrations on one of your servers. Your server remains poised and offers various solutions to ease the guest’s frustration, in turn diminishing what could have been an ugly scene. You then approach your server afterwards and express thanks for the way the situation was handled.
Be specific in your praise and be genuine in your gratitude. Your server will go from feeling potentially upset or stressed about the situation to feeling good about themselves for how they handled it. And you will feel grateful for having such a responsible and stellar employee. Win-win situation.
A Grateful Team
Besides taking the time to notice and be outwardly grateful for the small things your team members do daily to contribute to the success of your vision and business, there are team-building gratitude activities you can initiate.
Try setting up a “Thanks for Being Awesome” board, either a physical one in a back room/staff room or an online one where team members can write quick thank-you notes to each other and post them.
“Thanks for taking my shift so I could take care of my sick mom.”
“Thank you for making me laugh with that ridiculous joke the other night!”
“Thanks for teaching me that new bartending flair trick!”
A team who is thankful for each other is a team who will build each other up, and in turn build up your business and revenue.
Team meetings are an easy place to insert a gratitude practice. During the team meeting insert a “silver linings” activity.
Have team members discuss things that did not go well that week and then brainstorm together the “silver lining” from the situation. Maybe a new menu item was introduced and did not receive positive feedback. Perhaps there was a blow out between two team members when they didn’t agree on something, Maybe the new hire came for the first few scheduled shifts and then quit.
Whatever the bad situation was, what good thing came from it and what was learned from it that could make the team and business stronger? By looking for the good things in bad situations it enables us to be grateful for growth opportunities.
Building a culture of gratitude within your team can be as creative as you like, and there is no “one size fits all.” If one practice doesn’t work, try another. From team events and outings, to weekly gratitude emails, to shout-outs on your social media page, the possibilities are endless.
It is a small and simple change with little to no cost, and when it comes down to it…it just feels good. Here’s to personal and professional well-being! Cheers!