How Great Leaders Turn Adversity into Gratitude

How Great Leaders Turn Adversity into Gratitude

John Eades 28/11/2019 5

Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note? Chances are it’s been a while.

Frank Blake, the former CEO of Home Depot, used to set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to write handwritten thank-you notes to stand out employees. He estimated he wrote more than 25,000 notes to everyone from managers to hourly employees. 

Blake’s efforts made a positive impact on his people and the Home Depot business and studies show taking up the same habit can do the same for you. 

A study by Glassdoor found that 80% of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss, and 70% said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly.

The benefits don’t stop at the person being thanked. A multitude of studies shows people who express gratitude on a regular basis have better overall wellbeing and healthier hearts. 

In other words;

Gratitude is the Gateway to Engagement.

Many people and things deserve sincere thanks. It is very easy to overlook these things, particularly if showing gratitude isn’t currently in your repetiteur. Like I wrote at the beginning of the Building the Best, "Books aren’t written by one person, and careers aren’t built by one person either."

Here are three things that cause you adversity but you should give gratitude too instead:

The Team Members You Get the Opportunity to Lead

I know this might sound obvious, but for most people in a position of leadership, people are the hardest part of their job. I work with leaders every day who worry, complain, and even cry about the people they are responsible for. 

Instead of those thoughts, be thankful. Show appreciation for them. It’s important to note, appreciation is different from recognition. Recognition is about the results someone produces. Tom Peters famously said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Peters is correct, but recognition is only based on a person’s performance (which is important). Appreciation is much bigger; it’s about who someone is versus what they produce. It literally means, “recognizing the value of”. 

There was a study done at the University of Berkley about what motivates productivity. What they found was astonishing. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive versus when they didn’t. But when people felt valued and cared for, they were 43% more productive and effective versus than people who didn’t. That’s a 20% improvement when people know they’re appreciated.  

Take your gratitude to the next level and go beyond recognition and show real appreciation to your team members. They wake up and choose to come to work every day. They wake up and bring their whole self to work every day. Write them a handwritten thank you note. In that note, tell them how much you appreciate them for who they are.   

The Challenges and Obstacles You Face

Most of the leaders I work with are constantly putting out fires. While you can’t eliminate all challenges and obstacles, you can control how you handle them.  Author Mark Miller on a recent episode of the Entreleadership podcast said it well, "we don't determine our opportunities, we determine our readiness."

Be thankful that you are in a position that needs your brain and work ethic. Instead of getting agitated, complaining, or even getting negative about the next challenge that comes your way, pause right after you hear about it -- for seven seconds. During those seven seconds say to yourself, “E + R = O” which means Event + Response = Outcome.  

Once you do get good at this 7-second practice, turn your attention to helping someone else develop the skills to be able to solve common problems in the future without your help. 

The Bad Leaders in Your Life

Many professionals have had the misfortune of being managed by bad leaders. People that only think about themselves ad what's in their own best interest. Candidly, it's sad to think about how many bad leaders still exist in our organizations.

Great leaders use these people in their past to accelerate themselves in the future and you should too. Instead of complaining about them, turn that adversity into gratitude by being thankful that you now know how you don't want to lead. You know what things you want to avoid and not do as a leader when you get the opportunity.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “you cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” I hope you will take his wise words today and be grateful for the adversity you experience in your journey.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Elevate the Way You Lead: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead others.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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  • Daniel Schmidtka

    Humble leaders tend to have a high level of self-awareness of their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

  • Andrew Hilgeman

    The best leaders don’t micromanage and they don’t take on more than they can handle.

  • Dominick Braico

    Always put the team first

  • Shawn Pirok

    If you can learn to make some adjustments in your management style, you will likely find that the long-term rewards outweigh the short-term efforts.

  • Kevin Norris

    Excellent article

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on, LinkedIn Pulse,,, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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