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  • feedwordpress 00:00:49 on 2014/08/13 Permalink
    Tags: agile, , change, , culture hacking, , , gratitude, habits, talks   

    Speaking of Gratitude 

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    photo courtesy of Jhalak Shah.

    photo courtesy of Jhalak Shah.

    It was an honor for me to speak at CultureCon this year in Boston. I have been eager to talk about culture hacking and how gratitude can create numerous benefits. I wanted to share it less from an academic perspective of benefits received and more from a practitioner or hackers perspective – what is working and how do we do it.


    Here are some tweets Daniel posted from the talk:


    The following is a written interpretation of the content delivered in that Boston talk.

    I probably first noticed the power of gratitude when we produced the Thrivability Sketch. I coordinated 65+ people in contributing to the Thrivability Sketch, which we completed in 90 days. I am very thankful that it has seen over 30,000 views on slideshare, but the gratitude was there from the start. I would post to twitter, which I used a lot at the time, something like, 

    “So grateful for @sociate contributing a piece, looking forward to one from @Shirky”

    And magically this seemed to build upward momentum and enthusiasm. It made visible what was working about the project and the progress being made. The message was: here is something that you can do to be appreciated for.

    Benefits of Gratefulness

    Gratitude and acknowledgement have wonderful side effects. 

    • builds trust (when it is authentic)
    • can even help with conflict resolution
    • people want to be a contribution – energizes them to keep contributing
    • small monsters to big monsters – builds confidence
    • builds allegiance and culture of cooperation – focuses on what is present as an antidote to all the what is missing conversations
    • increasing creativity by opening the mind
    • acts as entitlement antidote

    How else do you think gratitude and acknowledgement can help your purpose?

    Protocols and Culture of Gratitude

    So how do we hack a culture of gratitude? I have done a couple experiments trying to answer that question. One of my favorites is gratitude vandals. It started with some post it note thank yous for my friend @deanna. She is a phenomenal host, so I left a dozen post it thank yous. Next time I came to visit, they were still up. We decided to start a tumblr and leave more notes for people we know and for strangers. I don’t think we took the time to keep that tumblr running, but I still love the idea of random acts of gratitude.

    Creating a culture of gratitude requires behavior change. One of the lessons that struck me profoundly when I was exploring behavior change and habit formation was that a habit is easier to start when you tie it to something else that you already do. It helps create the trigger for the habit. And maybe that is where the gratitude vandals failed – we didn’t have good trigger moments to remind ourselves to leave a gratitude.

    At CultureCon we are talking about the Agile practice. I don’t do straight up Agile myself, but here might be some opportunities that speaking with some of you in advance, seemed like good options. 

    Where can we leverage existing agile habits and protocols to incorporate gratitude?

    • Gratitude in Daily SCRUM – when saying what happened yesterday, give gratitude and acknowledgement for who helped and how. When naming a challenge, if you articulate a request, appreciate the ability someone has when you request their assistance. Also, acknowledgements in Review or Retrospective. Improving is not just about doing less of what doesn’t work. It is also about doing more of what does work. By acknowledging it, you encourage more of it.
    • Gratitudes posted to Task Boards - adding a place where, like the vandals, gratitudes can be left for people to publicly see as progress is made. Gratitudes might be specific to work or it could be “thank you for bringing in the cupcakes!” 
    • Note: Social Network Analysis and other approaches are teaching us that pulling social behavior away from “work actions” creates a false distinction. We socialize as part of our work, and in doing so, share important information, build trust, and deepen relationships – the glue of effective work flow, so I discourage you from have a different board for appreciating code than you have for appreciating the cupcake donor.
    • Gratitude Stories – share and encourage stories that include acknowledgement and gratitude to talk about more of what to do right (and less on avoiding what has gone wrong, which encourages fear and contraction)

    What other ways can you imagine or have you tried?

    Good gratitude is hard to give and to receive. 

    Sometimes just saying thanks is enough. Sometimes more can be said or done. In my own exploration of gratitude, I have found a few protocols that help me give good gratitude. The simple thank you is a great step. Being specific about who you are thanking – use their name – adds something to the gratitude. Lots of miscommunication happens when we aren’t specific about what we are thanking someone for. Being specific about an action or behavior or quality of being can go a long way. It also helps the gratitude to be more authentic and less habitual. Take that a step deeper by expressing why that matters to you or what you value about it. Share how you benefit from the other person’s action or way of being. {This is probably starting to get really challenging for the other person to receive, so proceed with care and gentleness} Finally to really top it off, share how it makes you feel (their behavior and your benefitting from it).

    Give Good Gratitude Protocols

    Points for each of the following, as they ramp up:

    1. saying THANK YOU
    2. specifically to someone (WHO)
    3. for an action, BEHAVIOR, or what of being (for what)
    4. which you value (why do you BENEFIT)
    5. how it makes you FEEL

    gratitude treegratTreeI was quite pleasantly surprised that people at the event took initiative to create a gratitude tree. And many then expressed gratitude for people and experiences they had. Some were very wide gratitudes – for the air we breathe – and some were very specifically grateful such as thanking the staff or a staff member for helping put the event together.

    After that, Daniel took it to Agile14. And they made a gratitude tree too!

    The Challenge of Receiving Gratitude

    I didn’t explore, in the talk, some tips on receiving gratitude, so I add that as bonus material here.

    The more the person believes you are genuine and the more specific you are, it is likely that they will find the gratitude more and more difficult to receive. Okay, well, the narcissists won’t struggle. However, most of us aren’t used to getting a gratitude without it triggering an urge for reciprocity (give it right back, even if inauthentic), insecurity (I don’t deserve that), negative self talk (yeah, but I messed up x, y, or z), concerns about humility (don’t feed my big head), or other strong human urges, feelings, stories, and patterns.

    Perhaps begin your own explorations with gratitude by practicing on yourself. Observe your own inner dialogue as you thank yourself for something. What inner dialogue do you hear? 

    Slowly expand your gratitude practice. Going all the way to 5 step gratitudes at full tilt it like trying to run a marathon without any practice. Give yourself time to adjust as well as time for those around you, on your team, and in your family to acclimate.

    Be culturally sensitive. Our beliefs about gratitude and the protocols we use for it are culturally encoded. Note whether someone’s religious beliefs may open or close them to giving and receiving gratitude. What about their ethnic heritage? What about socio-economic class (the wealthy might have learned to be polite at boarding school, but they also learned how to be inauthentic there, for example). 

    Finally, gratitude is in some way or can be twisted into an expression of debt: “I benefitted from you. I am thus in some way in your debt.” Most of us are uncomfortable feeling indebted. Watch for social signals that people feel obligation around gratitude – to get the benefits, we all need to feel like we come to it from a place of agency and choice and not obligation. So too this sense of indebtedness is tied to the vulnerability we experience when expressing gratitude. If I am in debt to you for your behavior, then I am at your mercy in some small way: you have an impact on me. Build your vulnerability muscles by implementing a practice of gratitude. (And if you don’t think vulnerability is good for you, see Brene Brown’s work on it and whole-hearted people.)

  • feedwordpress 14:01:58 on 2014/04/01 Permalink
    Tags: gratitude,   

    20 Prompts for Gratitude 

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    Upward spiral stairs at the Louvre. Photo by Jean Russell.

    Gratitude. It is the core of thrivability.

    I was reminded today of the health benefits of gratitude, and I thought I would share some ways that I quickly generate a list of gratitude for an individual. I can write 50 gratitudes in about 15 minutes for someone. I am pretty sure, even though I haven’t seen any data, that receiving gratitude is also a health and happiness booster.

    Sustainability asks us to take care of what is around us, implicitly because we have been bad and need to fix it. Thrivability asks that we show gratitude to what is around us for all that it gives us, creating upward spirals of value and appreciation, triggering care and nurturing – of people and planet.

    In February, the ci2iglobal team wrote out gratitudes and gave them as a gift to Christina Jordan for her extraordinary contributions to our team. Watching her read them and cry with feelings of blessing, I wanted to cry too. We simply do not receive much gratitude, and when we do, we feel seen for who we are, loved, appreciated, validated, and blessed. That has to be good for your health, right? Certainly for happiness.

    Here is a list of questions that I am using as prompts.

    Gratitude tricks and prompts:

    1. What are you grateful for the person saying?
    2. What are you grateful for experiencing with the person?
    3. What are you grateful for the person doing for you?
    4. What do you admire about what they do for themselves?
    5. What do you enjoy about how they engage groups or strangers?
    6. What do you notice that is beautiful or inspiring about who they are?
    7. What do you respect them most for?
    8. What was something you enjoyed about your last interaction with them?
    9. What is something you cherish in your memory of them?
    10. What do you tell people about them?
    11. What do you like about their face or eyes?
    12. What do you appreciate about the way they carry themselves or their style?
    13. What do you think they are most knowledgeable about?
    14. When are they most fun to be around?
    15. When are they most funny?
    16. What are they most humble about?
    17. What are they passionate about?
    18. What do you appreciate them for being angry about?
    19. When do you remember them expressing joy?
    20. What is their impact on your life?
    Pick your favorites or make up your own.
    What are your favorite prompts for expressing gratitude? How do you feel when you receive gratitude? How do you feel when you give it?
  • feedwordpress 15:44:17 on 2014/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: contribution, ego, , grace, gratitude, improv,   

    Worth and Graciousness 

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    In this work at the edge and in our relationships, we often cannot guess at our worth and the value we provide. I am just now feeling into a discernment that I want to share with you in case it is useful to you as well.

    Perhaps it is a challenge to know our value without knowing why someone else might find something about us or our work important and transformative. But who are we to say?

    I notice, in myself and others, two responses to someone acknowledging our value. The first is to dismiss, belittle, undermine, qualify, minimize, reject, deny – to be in contraction as a response in some way or another. The signal this sends is: “you are wrong to value me so highly because I am undeserving of it. I am not worthy.” The second response is graciousness: to thank, appreciate, celebrate, honor, acknowledge, receive, or revel in their acknowledgment. Often it is to reciprocate, when and where appropriate, by articulating the value you perceive that the other provides. The signal this sends is: “you are generous to value me so highly, and I am appreciative of that. I am worthy, as are you.”


    My dear friends Deanna and Hava are often letting me know the value I bring them. I am learning to respond graciously instead of resisting them.

    In improv, one of the primary principles is “yes, and-ing” each exchange. If the other person says, “there is a fluffy pink elephant plodding along behind you.” Then you don’t respond by telling them that they are insane to think so. You say something like, “yes, and we are starting a parade, would you like to join us?” Another principle of improv is “making the other person look good.” So you might even say, “yes, and how astute of you! She is a bit shy! You have to look closely at my shadow to see her.”

    I mention these two principles of improv because they are also generative for conversations and interactions. When we respond to another’s acknowledgement of value with a “no, but” instead of a “yes, and” we fail to make them look good (or feel good). We cut short the conversation and opportunity to generate together.

    “But my ego!” you say. Yes yes, but what is more egotistical? To tell someone that they are wrong, or to appreciate their point of view as they describe it? It is a false form of humility to deny someone their appreciation of your value by telling them they are wrong. A gracious humility allows them their perception without taking it on as who you are. A gracious humility responds with equal or greater appreciation of the other.

    Be gracious. Allow others to appreciate your worth in their eyes. Respond with gratitude.

    I have found it easy to be grateful for others for what they do. I find it more challenging to be grateful for how they see me and want to be generous with me for it. Yet, this is the very contribution people want to make, and it is my strange ego that seeks to deny them that pleasure of giving. I am going to challenge myself to be a more gracious receiver. Maybe you will too.

    Perhaps we need to keep asking, “What would a whole-hearted person do here?”


  • feedwordpress 21:29:40 on 2013/10/06 Permalink
    Tags: announcements, gratitude,   

    Here Comes Thrivability! 

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    ThrivabilitybookcoverVery excited to see the book coming out this month.

    I want to heartily thank my editor, Andrew Carey, for holding me throughout the editing and production process.  He not only made important – crucial – improvements to the book, he helped me go through the challenging process of releasing a creative work into the world. Those are two quite different skills. And he managed them with good natured curiosity and calm.

    I hope you enjoy what we have created. (Andrew and I as well as dozens of contributors to the ideas, structure, stories, and more.) Links below the image will take you to the table of contents, introduction, conclusion and acknowledgements and resources.



    Thrivability: Breaking Through to a World that Works, Triarchy Press, October 2013.

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