A Simple Team Gratitude Exercise


Not to be left out of the plethora of Thanksgiving oriented blog posts I thought I would share a simple exercise that I have found can really help create a sense of shared gratitude in your team. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Or maybe you’ve thought of doing something like it but never tried. Trust me, it’s better than a turkey hangover.


Flip chart paper you can safely hang on the wall, post-it notes, colored markers, fun stickers (optional).

Step 1:

Gather your team together and don’t tell them ahead of time what you are going to do.

Step 2:

Ask the group to hang a flip-chart sheet on the wall with their name at the top, (that should make them immediately suspicious).

Step 3:

Give each person a stack of post it notes and a pen if they need it.

Step 4:

Ask them to write down 3 things they are sincerely grateful for about each person on the team. They should end up with 3 post-it notes for each person with one point on each note. Give them about 20 minutes or so.

Step 5:

Ask for a volunteer to go first or pick someone. Go around the room and ask each person to share their 3 points about that person, (encourage them to direct their comments to the person rather than the group). Now ask them to write, draw or otherwise creatively display their points on that person’s flip chart page, (this is where the markers and stickers come in to make it fun). For example, if there are 8 people on the team then each sheet should have 21 comments on it when you are done. Try to fill up the page. While one person is writing the next person can begin sharing.

Continue with Step 5 until everyone has had a turn. It’s OK if things get a little off track with laughter, bonus sharing, chatter or other random frivolity but try to get it back on track so you have time for everyone.

Note: By the way, all these steps include you.

When you are done ask the group to talk about how that process felt and what the experience was like for them.

Each person should take away their page as a reminder of their value to the team and how they make a difference.

Finish with an HR appropriate group hug or high-fives or whatever works for you.

There ya go!

By the way, you can do this any time but Thanksgiving is a nice excuse.

Maybe you have a great exercise or experience to share? Please do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Leader Who Wasn’t There


We are masters of time travel

Back to the future

Stories interrupt

Images appear

Calling us into a trance

Willing us to be anywhere

But here and now


The prevailing story is that we have more distractions, more information and more decisions pressing our lives than ever before. Our attention span is shrinking; as little as 20 seconds according to some experts. Leaders in many organizations are stretched to breaking; juggling meetings, emails, inquiries and issues. As we manage the task in front of us we are already considering the next or perhaps mulling over a more complex issue that awaits our attention.

This frantic mental traffic puts us into a sort of trance. We see without seeing. We listen without hearing. We are here but not present. We may be in the room but our mind is in some faraway place or time.

So what does this mean in practical terms?

They need you.

And you are not there.

If we truly believe that the key to organizational progress, change and success lies in releasing the creative potential, discretionary effort and untapped energy in people then we must recognize the importance of our relationships. We must learn to bring our attention back to this moment, to this person, to this conversation and all the possibility it represents.

To truly connect with people we must be present.

This is hard work. It requires intention and practice. Our minds are conditioned. Our habits are deeply engrained. Yet we know that with time and effort we can change these patterns and teach ourselves to wake from the trance.

Our presence is a gift to ourselves. When are present we become fully aware of and accept what is happening right here, right now. In this state have access to all of our senses, our emotions and our accumulated experience. We’ve all experienced this focused presence even if for a short time and unexpected. We are never in a better position to make a real, lasting impact.

Our presence is a gift to others. When we are not present people feel it. We feign attention and respond from our programming but we miss the underlying story or unspoken need. We miss the person in our attempt to address the problem so we can move on to other things. They leave with a nagging sense of rejection or misunderstanding. Words left unspoken.

Presence says – “I see you.”

Presence says – “I hear you”

Presence says – “You matter”

Presence says – “I care.”

When we give the gift of presence we make a critical investment in our relationships and our leadership.

  • We gain understanding into the unique traits of those we serve
  • We learn about their fears, hopes, dreams and passions
  • We are more prepared guide their development
  • We open up the lines of communication
  • We build trust and deepen our understanding
  • We increase our emotional awareness and empathy
  • We can better express a purpose that aligns with their passion
  • We have deeper insight into the well-being of our team
  • We learn to apply presence to problem solving, innovation and other areas of leadership
  • We learn more about ourselves as we reflect on each experience

Presence is a simple and yet invaluable resource available to every leader.

And let’s face it..

it’s hard to be an effective leader…

if you’re not there.

Practicing meditation or similar disciplines can be a great way to start building the power to be present.

For deeper insight into this topic consider this talk and guided meditation by Tara Brach on “Relaxing into Living Presence“.

Please share your thoughts.

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