Gratitude and Business - Not Contradictory in Nature Mitch Fortner, P.E.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Gratitude and Business - Not Contradictory in Nature

I've read a metric boatload of management, marketing, business development, workplace efficiency, and self-improvement books through the last 34 years, and I've learned some wonderful things as a result. But if I had to condense all of that down and offer one immediately actionable nugget of advice to managers and leaders of the AEC industry today, it would be this...

Expand the volume of gratitude in your life.

In my mind, I can hear the groans from my technically focused brothers and sisters in arms from the AEC community as they read that sentence. Yes, it’s a soft, people oriented skill. But hear me out please. Gratitude can transform your work environment and make your team better. And it starts with you, regardless of your position in the organization. 

Some of you might think, "Mitch, I don't feel grateful. I'm up to my ears in project problems and my team is just frustrating me to no end. I don't have the help I need and nobody takes this stuff as seriously as I do." Let me offer some advice. First, a wise person once told me that feelings often follow actions in our lives. In other words, you may not FEEL grateful, but as you consistently express gratitude, you will almost certainly begin to feel grateful. I'm living proof of that observation. Second, if you are continually frustrated and stressed and angry, that is inward focused stinking thinking. Let me encourage you to think more about the others around you and see if things don't begin to change for the better. As Stephen Covey wisely observed, "seek first to understand and then to be understood." It's a life changing perspective.

How can this be applied?

  1. Start today. During moments of stress and conflict, stop, and simply say, "I’m grateful for you. You bring a much-needed perspective to the table. I want to work cooperatively with you to resolve this issue.”
  2. In your emails, correspondence, and phone calls, find some way to compliment your subordinates, your peers, your superiors, and your clients. You may not feel complimentary, but I bet if you make this a habit, it will get easier.
  3. If you speak publicly, exude gratitude. Make sure that your presentation demonstrates authentic humility and gratitude. Nobody likes to be lectured to in a prideful manner.
  4. When you speak about your team, do it in a complimentary and positive manner. Don't ever tear them down to make yourself look good. This is a guaranteed way to alienate yourself from your team and lose their trust. 
  5. In your team meetings, purposefully look for at least one thing to compliment the team on. This will do wonders to change the dynamics of your team meetings.

And finally, always remember "There is no limit to the amount of good that you can do, if you don't care who gets the credit." - Ronald Reagan

Mea culpa... There will be some colleagues and former colleagues of mine who read this and think, "That doesn't sound like the Mitch that I know or knew." And they will be exactly right. In my time as a project manager and division manager, I often put tasks before people. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. I was way out of balance at times, and I look back with some regret and wonder what more we could have accomplished had I maintained a consistently better balance in this area. This is one reason that I am becoming more and more passionate about workplace culture, core values, and things such as the simple act of expressing gratitude. I don't want others to make the same mistakes that I made along the way.

I'm on this learning curve with you. If you have other ideas on how to expand the volume of gratitude in your life, please reach out to me and let me know your thoughts!


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