Back to Articles

Leaders Build Trust and Stronger Relationships with Gratitude

Did you know that gratitude may be the key to happiness? Numerous studies have shown strong links between gratitude and increased positive emotions.

For me, gratitude is the most rewarding of all the positive emotions because it acknowledges a major victory with humility. That makes it a key to leadership effectiveness as well.

This article is about finding ways to exercise your gratitude muscles and develop your capacity for seeing and appreciating what is working, what I have termed Asset-Based Thinking (ABT). (You can read how ABT came to be here).


At any given moment, there are positive and negative forces at work. As humans, we are genetically primed to see and emphasize the negative while giving the positive short-shrift. This negativity bias made sense when we lived in a world where survival depended on our ability to spot and act on danger quickly. However, nowadays most of the negativity we see—like a lost contract or a missed deadline—is not dire enough to warrant a true fight-or-flight response.

The good thing is that we can learn to overcome our negativity biases by intentionally focusing on the good in the moment, the assets. For over 20 years I have coached leaders to spend 5 times more effort on finding the good in themselves, others, and the situations they are in, than on the negative. The positive impact of this simple yet powerful mindset management technique has shown measurable results in myriad ways.

Choose a time each day to step out of the moment and reflect on the forces at play. Your first instinct will probably be to name something that’s going wrong. That’s okay. It’s natural. But for every 1 negative you see, scan for 5 positives that you can be grateful for. If you do this daily, you will begin strengthening your capacity for gratitude and asset-based thinking.

Celebrating Successes

After the completion of a project—or even during its execution—take the time to celebrate your team’s success. In addition to overall achievements, be specific about who you are grateful for and how they contributed.

Say it out loud and put it in writing.

Publicly expressing gratitude will foster a sense of team pride as well as ensure that each person feels valued for their efforts. In addition, people will be motivated to keep the positive energy flowing by continuing the good work they were recognized for.

How do you show gratitude to the people you work with? Please share in the comments!


Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute