What My Intern Taught Me About Gratitude

November 24, 2015 / GRATITUDE IS THE ATTITUDE

What My Intern Taught Me About Gratitude

November 24, 2015

Rich Berens President, Root Inc.

Rich Berens is President and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc.,  where he helps leaders and organizations align on key strategic imperatives and engage their people in bringing their strategies to life. Rich is also a noted speaker on the issues of strategy and change and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs.

I have had the privilege to run a consulting company for a few years now. A couple of summers ago one of our interns, who had recently graduated from college, was being considered for a full-time position. She had done a great job as an intern, was energetic, curious, thoughtful, hard working and, most importantly, passionate about what we do. Her skill set wasn’t perfect for the role, but we felt she could learn those skills and be a concrete contributor. We offered her the job.

Our HR lead, the soon-to-be-hired intern and myself met. What happened next is something I will never forget. As I told her that we wanted her to come on as a full-time employee, she shrieked in excitement, jumped up to give me a long hug and started to cry. She then looked at me and told me how truly grateful she was for the opportunity.

GRATITUDE IS INFECTIOUS
I thanked our intern for her excitement and reminded her that we didn’t give her anything she did not deserve. Followed by a confirmation that her reaction meant she was going to take the position. She yelled “YES!” and ran out of the room to call her parents with the good news.

I have had plenty of opportunities over the course of my career to make job offers, but her reaction moved me more than any other. It wasn’t just her infectious excitement, but above all it was her expression of gratitude. It created uncommon energy within her—but also within me. Her grateful nature gave me goose bumps. It humbled me. It compelled me to acknowledge my gratitude for the business we are a part of and what we get to do every day. It also made me really think about, and appreciate, the power of authentic gratefulness and also how little of it we actually have in business.

GRATITUDE EQUALIZES LEADERSHIP
Gratefulness and its effects are beginning to be studied more and the results are pretty startling. Just recently the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC did a study to identify how the human brain experiences gratitude—by using testimonials from Holocaust survivors. The findings proved that feelings of gratitude activate areas responsible for moral cognition, reward, fairness, subjective value judgments and economic decision-making.

Gratitude not only makes you feel good, but science shows it feeds into the type of skills today’s leaders need in order to be successful in very agile and fast changing environments.

I also like to think of gratitude as “the great equalizer”.

As leaders we often get preferential treatment, have people working to make sure our schedules and days flow smoothly and have a support system ready to assist when a need arises. For those of us who travel, it’s a bit like getting upgraded to first class all the time. You get to board early, have ample space to store your luggage, enjoy a better seat and receive better food. You sort of forget what it’s like in the middle seat in coach … or at least you don’t want to think about what it feels like. Before you know it, you think you are entitled to be in the front and get cocooned from the reality of what it’s like for most. Over time, those first class experiences can make us less empathetic and less sensitive to the world around us.

Gratefulness—like our intern displayed—creates humility, which if embraced, is a powerful way for leaders to stay connected and true to themselves.

Rich Berens President, Root Inc.

Rich Berens is President and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc.,  where he helps leaders and organizations align on key strategic imperatives and engage their people in bringing their strategies to life. Rich is also a noted speaker on the issues of strategy and change and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs.

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