Post-Thanksgiving and Leadership: How are the two connected? by Sabrina Smith

Thanksgiving. A holiday celebrated in North America, Canada and other communities around the globe. A day most often spent fellowshipping with family and friends, while savoring our favorite food dishes. There are different traditions and history surrounding this holiday as recorded by historians and theologians alike. To provide a foundation for this article, we will agree that the core reason people celebrate Thanksgiving is to show gratitude or “thanks” for events in life, society, culture, etc. Now that we understand the foundational meaning of this holiday, I’d like to propose that leadership should celebrate Thanksgiving every day.  Let me explain.

Oxford dictionary defines thanksgiving as, “The expression of gratitude, especially to God.” I want you to briefly meditate on the word gratitude and write down what comes to mind (give yourself 30 seconds). Stop and review your list. Many of you will probably have written: Family (wife, husband, children, grandparents, etc.); Health (getting over cancer, addictions, losing weight, etc.); Career (promotion, new job, 20 years, etc.); Friends (old friends, new friends); Finances (financially stable, raise, retirement fund, bank account, annual salary, etc.). All those things, and much more, are worthy of giving thanks. However, I wonder how many of us are thankful for difficult employees, peers or leaders? Hmmm…Someone just decided to stop reading, but I implore you to continue and keep an open mind.

As leaders, it is inevitable that we will face challenges leading people and ourselves. What’s important is we see those challenges as reasons to be grateful, not dread our roles as leaders or the people we work with. You might find it strange to be thankful for challenging situations, but without them there would be no fuel for us to change.

Think about a challenging person on the job. This could be a direct report, peer, or leader. What is it that makes it difficult for you? To find the root cause will require you to objectively examine yourself and the situation. For some it will mean seeking advice and guidance from an authority in the matter. For others, it will require time spent self-reflecting, reading, or mapping out what is causing the problem for you.  Whatever path you take, seeking a solution requires work on your behalf, and that work translates into personal and professional development. In essence, the difficulties we face, and address, propel our growth as leaders, and for having the opportunity to become better leaders we should be thankful. For the workplace, this translates into maturing leaders who are more valuable to the business over time (i.e. driving self-engagement, employee engagement, customer engagement, profit engagement, etc.).  The rewards are endless!

Thanksgiving Day (the holiday) is over for 2016. However, for leadership each day should be regarded as “Thanksgiving” for another opportunity to become better stewards of ourselves and those we lead.

Happy Post-Thanksgiving Day!

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