Guest blogger Bea Wray is Entrepreneurship Chair at Advantage Media/ForbesBooks and was executive director of an entrepreneurial hub in Savannah, Georgia. She is an entrepreneur who helped created and run three companies and has met scores of entrepreneurs throughout her career. After years of working with entrepreneurs side-by-side, observing them closely and studying them intently, there is one generalization she came up with: They are extroverts (Richard Branson) and introverts (Mark Zuckerberg), outrageous (Jack Ma) and earnest (Melinda Gates), eccentric (Steve Jobs) and focused (Sheryl Sandberg).
But there is one key ingredient that separates the successes from the almost-rans: Gratitude.
I was reminded of the power of gratitude at the recent Forbes Women’s Summit. When host Moira Forbes expressed her gratitude to the people in the audience for their participation, you could sense how the crowd absorbed and responded to the respect and appreciation coming from the stage. When guest speaker Kerry Washington was asked what compels her and answered “Gratitude,” you understood that gratitude can open you up to all sorts of opportunities.
Successful entrepreneurs see gratitude as a business growth strategy. Research shows that business owners that institute gratitude and recognition programs have more engaged employees and stronger social connections with business partners and customers. It feeds directly into the bottom line. Gratitude has been shown to increase determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy. Simply, people who are grateful are able to produce more than those who aren’t.
First, gratitude makes the right people want to be around you and opens the door to more relationships.
Showing appreciation can help win new connections. Thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Simple and sage advise for any entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs who are genuinely thankful for the people around them and make a conscious commitment to show it, have a devoted following of partners, advisors and employees who are willing and prepared to follow them through all the inevitable highs and lows.
According to a Harvard Health Publications article that summarized the findings of several studies on gratitude. 94% of women and 96% of men agree that a grateful boss is more likely to be successful. “Managers who remember to say ‘thank you’ to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.” Recognition is a powerful motivator that can build employee retention and increase productivity.
Second, gratitude opens up opportunities and energizes creative thinking.
“The greater your capacity for sincere appreciation, the deeper the connection to your heart, where intuition and unlimited inspiration and possibilities reside.” - HeartMath Institute.
This is both a life issue and a business lesson. Cultivating gratitude enhances creativity. Grateful individuals are better able to form social bonds with clients, better able to utilize coping skills to defer stress, better able to maintain positive affect, and are more creative in problem solving. And they are more motivated in their jobs.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a grateful spirit won’t give up, so gratitude fuels the persistent attitude needed to drive entrepreneurial success.
Take it from me, being an entrepreneur can be a downer. Gratitude is the perfect anecdote. It provided a safety net for those times when I failed and empowered me to get back up. All those meetings where I walked away empty-handed – no job, no investment, no partnership. I was still grateful to be in the room – to make the connection, to learn, to get one step closer. The lens of gratitude blurs the lens of defeat.
Not so long ago, I met Steve Forbes. I sent him a thank-you note for taking the time to speak with me, which apparently registered with him because he sent me a company scarf. At the recent Women’s Conference, he made a bee-line towards me to compliment me on my strategically-worn scarf. “You’re the best dressed woman here,” he quipped and we started an engaging conversation. A one-on-one with a business tycoon. The power of gratitude.