An Underutilized Leadership Discipline

Achievement, growth and progress come with a funny by-product. We adapt.  What was once “out there” and seemingly unreachable, becomes normal, expected, routine. This happens because in our minds there are multiple realities simultaneously occurring with the brain bouncing back and forth between the facts about where it is today and the fantasy of where it believes it should be. This creates a void between the two points and in that void is the pursuit, the hunt, the drive to achieve, grow and progress toward something different.

Let’s say you are boating and you find a spot way off in the distance on the horizon. Now imagine you and a friend motor out to that exact GPS spot where your mind had decided the horizon exists. What would you find upon arriving to that exact GPS location – the horizon? No, because beyond that horizon is another one. The horizon is always beyond the place where you currently are, with a never-ending allure that pulls us. The problem is that the never-ending allure can become draining and demoralizing because it feels like you never arrive. 
So what does this have to do with growth and the underutilized leadership discipline? It’s normal to continue looking out at the next horizon to chase but this can lead to feeling stuck, run down and unfulfilled despite the progress, because you never looked back to contrast your reality today with where you were yesterday. It is in that activity of reflecting back to appreciate the journey that got you to “today” that fuels the energy for continuing to push forward to the next horizon tomorrow. That activity is a discipline of tapping into gratitude. 
“You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. Gratitude 
is the antidote to fear.”   – Tony Robbins
What does it look like to utilize gratitude as a leadership tool? Here are some simple ideas to introduce more of this leadership discipline without a heavy time investment. 
For You as a Leader
  • Write a daily entry in a morning gratitude journal
  • Complete a simple end of day / end of week reflection
    • What was great today/this week?
    • What could be even better?
  • Conduct a Monthly, Quarterly or Yearly look-back by making a list of wins
  • Send Thank-You notes to friends and family 
For You with Your Team
  • Ask the team about their top three recent wins in your Weekly Check-In
  • Conduct annual coaching with team members that includes reviewing with them a list of top accomplishments over the past year
  • Send Thank-You notes to team or, to their family members thanking them for the great contributions of their mother, father, husband, wife, child, etc. 
  • Build peer-to-peer recognition and reward into your culture (e.g. Try starting meetings with the tradition of sharing a simple “shout-out” among the team.)
Raising the Bar
Here is a simple series of prompts to answer which are surprisingly profound in their impact. The questions could be answered about someone else or about yourself as you look back on the gap between where you were yesterday and where you are today. Consider collecting these as you complete them on yourself and others, while sharing them with those about whom you write. (Credit to Wake-Up Warrior “Gratitude Stack”)
Q1: Who has triggered you to feel grateful?
Q2: What is the story you’re currently telling yourself right now about what happened? (I.e. Why is this person triggering you to feel grateful?)
Q3: What are the connected feelings of gratitude that you’re experiencing because of this story?
Q4: What do you want the person who triggered you to feel grateful to know about this story?
Q5: As you sit back and survey the connected feelings of gratitude you’re having in this moment, what is the singular, simple lesson on life you’re learning from this entry?
Q6: Armed with this lesson of gratitude, what are your final insights or revelations as you conclude this entry? Or, if you could write this person a brief note summarizing your insights, what would you say directly to them?  (Consider forwarding them your entire entry).