Seems like an odd combination: gratitude, grace, and obsession right? Well it is at first blush. Unpack it and you’ll find it’s exactly the right recipe to show your employees that you care about what’s important. Finding and keeping the good ones on your team can be a full-time job, especially given the current labor climate. Here’s how you can make it a little easier on yourself.

Grace

To lead with grace requires knowing who you are, which allows you to inspire people to help you move the organization toward its goals. It’s a style of communication that is synonymous with respect and caring. If used appropriately, it can increase the levels of teamwork and create a cohesive culture by building trust and cooperation. A leader who creates this sort of working environment through their communication alone can certainly be called a graceful leader. 

One of the main attributes people who lead with grace also seem to have is authenticity. Authentic leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability in front of employees. They are self-aware, which requires knowing and understanding themselves. They know that their vulnerability helps them to connect because people sense that they’re genuine. Authentic leadership, at its most basic, means not being “someone other” at work than you are at home. If you pretend to be one way at work and act another way at home, your behavior won’t be natural and you’ll come across as awkward and unsure, which will create distrust.

A second attribute that qualifies leading with grace is compassion. Compassion starts with a belief that ‘we are all created equally’ and that no ones’ work is above anyone else’s, including yourself as the leader. A leader who is compassionate is aware of and respectfully acknowledges employees’ efforts and feelings, which results in win-win situations more frequently. Instead of a transactional approach (“do what I say because I give you money and benefits”) or an authoritarian approach (“do it my way or get fired!”), a compassionate leader thinks about the collective: “Let’s achieve these great goals together.” A compassionate leader generously recognizes work well done, but also gently, firmly and without apology, corrects employee’s efforts as often as is needed. Helping an employee improve their performance through communication and feedback is compassionate. Letting an employee ‘wallow’ in bad work habits is not good for the company or the individual employee. They also tend to put employees first and attempt to be as flexible as possible if their employees have had difficulties, like a death in the family or divorce.

Learning to balance authentic and compassionate actions with accountability is the key to leading with grace.

Gratitude

The combination of leadership and gratitude is extremely powerful. The power of gratitude gives leaders the edge they need to quickly pivot during stressful situations, such as their team not performing or their bottom line dropping. When leaders pause for 60 seconds and use the Gratitude Practice outlined below, they give their brains and their bodies a chance to recalibrate. This allows them to focus not only on the present and how they can turn things around, but on hidden opportunities to be grateful. 

When leaders engage in this practice on a regular basis, they are able to generate gratitude from within, which allows them to show gratitude to others. Think of it in these terms:

A leader who is grateful towards his or her employees gains their respect.

The simple act of gratitude produces other behaviors. When a leader takes time to intentionally thank her employees, she gains their respect. Because gratitude is a virtue, we tend to respect those who exemplify it.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their trust.

Gratitude can’t be faked, and that’s one of the reasons why it is one of the emotions that elicits most trust.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their effort.

Gratitude also produces greater effort in those who sense it. Someone says, “Thanks, that was awesome! You totally rocked that deadline!” That kind of grateful language is encouraging, because it’s a reward for effort. When we’re rewarded for our effort in such a way, we want to give even more effort.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their appreciation.

We appreciate virtue when we see it i others. Thus, when you express gratitude towards other people, your behavior will gain appreciation.

A leader who expresses gratitude prevents other undesirable emotions.

Grateful people are rarely angry. And angry people are rarely grateful. Think of it like this, that gratitude can eliminate some of the more undesired traits associated with leaders — micromanagement, authoritarianism, rudeness, etc.

Obsession

A healthy obsession for the right things is ultra critical to drive the success of your company. Obsessing about quality of work, the level of service your employees perform for your clients, the way your employees treat your equipment…etc. A healthy obsessive tendency perpetuates a culture of continuous improvement. And a continuous improvement culture drives everyone to do better.

Leaders who take deep dives in to the processes that are critical to the delivery of product and service that drive revenue don’t let anything else preoccupy their mind. The go “all in”. Think of this like working on the business rather than in it, but 10X. This is where the details matter. Obsessed leaders look at every aspect of the business and how it runs, in it’s finest detail. From how your front line employees interact with your clients to the follow up emails they receive as a thank you for their business.

Don’t let yourself get distracted. Obsession with improvement means that every day, without fail, you will relentlessly focus on finishing each of these process goals. They become your top priority.

The landscape business owners I know who are at the top of their game got there not by wanting to be better, but by becoming obsessed with improving. Because we live in such a result-oriented society, it’s easy to forget that the key to happiness lies not in the end goal, but in the efforts along the way toward achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

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