This is my favorite holiday. No pundits screaming about the end of giving thanks or the impending assault on thankfulness. No extremism of any kind (except maybe the argument over favorite pie – mine’s pumpkin).
And frankly, I think we can all do with a bit more reflection on all we have to be grateful for.
There are plenty of people who’d love to have your headaches.
The one downside to the holiday known as Thanksgiving (besides mincemeat pie) is that being thankful – and the joy-filled, gracious spirit that tends to linger right to New Year’s Day – seems to disappear when the last of the holiday decorations come down (at my house that’s the Saturday after Epiphany).
I started working on improving my thankfulness back in my mid-20’s when I realized I was taking my internal unhappiness out on other people. But I really ramped up feeling thankful after my car accident in 1999. Whenever I read of someone dying from a head injury I’m instantly reminded how blessed I am to be alive and to be functioning at the level I do considering the injuries I sustained.
I think approaching work – and life – with a spirit of gratitude brings you more things to be grateful for. It’s that old principle that what you focus on grows.
So here are 10 tips to help you embrace gratitude and leverage it as a business growth strategy.
1. Say thank you. This might seem old fashioned or maybe you think it gets said so much that it’s become meaningless but I disagree. Words have power; we know that. Put a smile on your face (which has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood) and thank everyone for everything.
2. Send thank you notes. And not just emails. I know email is easy. It lets you cross the “thank you” off your to-do list, but sending handwritten thank you notes has a bigger impact. It speaks volumes about you and creates an emotional connection you’re unlikely to get from an email. It also helps you stand out while bringing you back to top of mind.
3. Use a CRM. Pre-accident I had an amazing memory. Post accident…that’s another story. Add in there the impact of stress and overload and it’s no wonder I have to write everything down (and then try to remember where I put my notebook). But as your business grows beyond one notebook and one client file, developing systems and processes becomes important to maximize profitability and leverage your time. A good customer relationship management system will help you track your contacts with everyone from prospective clients to referral partners and connect with other important tools like your calendar, email, and sometimes project management systems. CRMs can be a good use of your money if you actually use the tool. They’ll help you remember details about your contacts so you look like the hero when you send a prospect a get well card for their sick pet.
4. Pay attention to and participate in social media. A friend once ranted about the egotism of social posts by stressing that “it’s SOCIAL media, not social MEdia.” Funny, and bears remembering. So when people comment on your posts answer them back. “Like” their posts. Give people shout-outs and mention them by name. Share resources with people and connect your connections.
But don’t poke people.
5. Send cards on different holidays. I send Thanksgiving and New Year’s cards to clients, prospective clients, and other contacts I have snail mail addresses for. I’ve been known to send Valentine’s Day and Independence Day cards too. People get so little actual mail that it’s a great way to remind them of you and strengthen your emotional connection. It’s nice. Try it.
6. Send a note (ok or an email) for any reason you can. Read your local paper as well as online news sites and industry news then forward articles to those who would benefit from them. Send congrats notes when sales results or expansions are reported on or when some other professional achievement gets publicity. Living in a state of gratitude includes feeling grateful and genuinely happy for the success of others.
7. Give gifts. Please don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as an opportunity to show your appreciation. Be a little creative. It’s not the cost or size of the gift, it truly is the thought that matters. But the gift should also be consistent with the relationship and with the value. For example, I got a referral that brought in a new and very profitable client. I gave the person who made the referral tickets to a concert with my favorite group. I’ve sent homemade cookies to people at the holidays. Build this into your business development budget for the coming year so you’re not wondering where the money will come from. And if you’re creativity impaired when it comes to gift giving, hire someone like a personal shopper to help you.
Here’s a video about gift giving that I shot in 2014.
8. Start every day with a prayer of thanks. Oh don’t get weirded out because I said “prayer”. As soon as I wake up I say a prayer of thanks for another day and silently go through a list of the key things I have to be grateful for. Gratitude is a habit and that little ritual gets my day started on the right foot.
9. End every day with a prayer of thanks. Repeat the above but with an emphasis on all the things that went right that day. Believe me there are times when this one can feel hard but it’s all about perspective. You have tons to be thankful for starting with the fact that you can read this and you have access to the Internet.
10. Detach from the outcome. I’ve said this before but it’s the single most powerful thing I’ve ever done that’s brought me the most joy and actually improved my profitability. I know work is important to you. You might feel as though your work is a mission you’re on. That’s great and it’s likely true, but work doesn’t define you. When you hear “no” or a prospective client gives you pushback on your proposal, tune into the emotions you’re feeling and the self-talk in your head. Simply examine the facts – no editorializing, no catastrophic thinking, and no hateful thinking about the person involved. If you feel yourself getting emotional – whether it be anger, frustration, or sadness – ask yourself why that emotion is being raised and where it comes from. The chances are good it’s something that happened in the past or that you’re projecting your emotion into the future. Like worrying in advance. When I was able to stop judging myself and others I was able to feel more genuine happiness in my entire life, not just in my work.
Action Step: Take the next 24 to 72 hours and really listen to what you say (and think). Pay attention to your nonverbal communication including things like your posture and facial expressions. If your language tends to be negative and your nonverbal behavior could be sending a negative message then I don’t care how much you try to convince yourself and others that you’re grateful, the fact is you’re not.
Then begin to catch the negative or extreme language you use. Smile more. Focus on seeing the other person’s point of view.
You can’t be grateful and rooted in grouchiness.
Let me know what you discover about yourself.
And stay tuned over the next several weeks. I’ve been hibernating (sort of) and working on some big projects I’m super excited about. Can’t wait to share with you! If you haven’t already done it, be sure to subscribe. Just click the link and add your email address so you don’t miss the tips, strategies, and resources I share to help you stand out and sell your services without being salesy.