Greatness from Gratefulness

by Rici van Schalkwyk | June 8, 2021

It is Monday morning, the kick-off of another working week.

A pre-dawn start to plan and prepare as per the “great leader’s” checklist. Pack lunches, grab a healthy breakfast, caffeine to go and review the afterschool schedule. Search for missing school shoes, books and sign the form that was forgotten in the schoolbag on Friday. Rush to work through the traffic due to the longer than expected delays in the morning routine. Arrive just in time for the first meeting feeling rushed, frustrated, and unprepared for the demanding week ahead.

Not a particularly bad morning, just life.

Not a great state of mind for performing at your best or motivating a team to greater performance, but we know how to work hard. Working hard will lead to being successful and then happiness. Right?


Wrong. Positive psychology states that this way of thinking is backward. Happiness leads to success.

In his book “The Happiness Advantage”, Shawn Achor shares that when we are positive our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive.

What individual, manager or employer would not want that?!

This seems easy but impossible at the same time. We are not happy all the time. Happiness will differ for each person. We cannot take responsibility for another person’s happiness.

What is happiness? Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness” is: “The state of being happy.” And the definition of “happy” is: “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Thus, happiness is the state of feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

But how do we become happy?


Management studies and research have shown that gratitude is the single most powerful method to increase happiness. Gratitude is being thankful, showing appreciation and returning kindness.

Gratefulness is to think about the positive things in your life rather than dwell on the negatives. Being thankful for what you have is common in our private life, but the same principal applies to our work life. It creates a positive mood and mind, influencing every relationship, interaction, and connection you make.

Showing appreciation to others and returning kindness creates an ever-increasing cycle of recognition and appreciation. This provides a natural and authentic positive reinforcement process in your organization.

Gratitude and Performance

Gratefulness gifts many benefits including improved emotional and physical wellbeing, better social interactions, and improved performance.

Read this for a more detailed list of benefits:

31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide (

My focus is on the enhanced performance that gratitude brings.

Various articles are available on the impact of gratitude on the performance of athletes. The article, Did you know gratitude improves athletic performance?, discusses the emotional, physical and social benefits observed when consistent gratitude is practiced.

Practicing consistent gratefulness in the work environment will result in the following:

  • Healthier employees – Being grateful reduces stress and leads to better sleep.
  • Increase in productivity – Healthy employees are less sick and more positive.
  • Elevated levels of creativity and innovation – Acknowledgement and positivity creates the platform for innovation.
  • Increased collaboration and engagement – Practicing gratitude leads to feelings of trust, safety, and connectedness.
  • More efficient management – The cycle of recognition and appreciation creates constant positive reinforcement.
  • Better decision making and increase in achieving goals. – Constantly searching to find tokens of appreciation opens the mind to a wider range of solutions and more resilience.
  • Increase in mentors – Those who are grateful are more likely to help others and be more sociable.
  • Higher retention rate – Gratitude increases employee morale and gives a sense of belonging.
So now the question is – How do I create a sense of gratitude in the work environment?

Culture of Gratefulness

Creating a culture of gratefulness does not have to cost a lot in time or money. With as little as 5 minutes a day there can be a permanent change.

  1. Draw focus on and attention to the positives daily. Make it part of the organization’s performance management strategy.
  2. Rewire mindsets to seek the positive by writing down 3 new gratitudes for at least 21 consecutive days.
  3. Gratitude journaling allows the brain to recall the energy from a positive event. There are various apps already available to assist with this process.
  4. Practice gratitude in the body through exercise and meditation. Both allow the mind processing and refocus time.
  5. Practice recognition and positive reinforcement in your frequent check in meetings. Acknowledge what this person brings to the team.
  6. Practice random acts of kindness by a quick email or note to thank someone for their effort or a smile when it is needed.
Practicing gratitude transforms you and your organization at every level. If you cultivate a culture of gratitude the effect will ripple through to all that encounter the organization. The positive change will be enduring.

A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things. – Plato

Our waucreators are working towards creating a sustainable culture of gratitude. Has your organization begun this journey? We would love to hear your story.


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