Best Self Thanks Giving


[I’ll return next week to the series on the things that undermine best-self leadership. But I’ve got to stop for this awesome holiday.]

Instead of a question at the end of RFL, consider this, up front:  Who is the most thanks-giving person you know? Whoever that person is I’m confident you would say these things are also true about them:

  1. Their positivity makes others better.
  2. People like to be around them.
  3. They are among the most happy, content or satisfied people you know.

At work and home,  “positive feedback” is another name for thanks. And the research just keeps mounting on the power of the positive at home and work.  First, Break all the Rules probed reams of Gallup management surveys and concluded that great managers thank each of their people at least once a week for something specific they have done well.  As John Gottman, the marriage expert has written, lasting marriages have a 5:1 positive:negative comment ratio. Marcial Losada has done fascinating research on corporate teams and concludes that “flourishing” (as opposed to languishing) occurs only when there is at least a 2.9:1 ratio of positive: negative.

Perhaps you wonder: But are people just born with the tendency to overflow with thanks?  Isn’t it all disposition?  And certainly we all know the outliers – the people who seem hopelessly if not pathologically negative – and others who just have the rosiest personalities (or lenses).  But what of the rest of us?  Can we move ourselves up the spectrum and become decidedly more positive? I’m convinced we can.

As I have shared in the past, Kim Cameron in Positive Leadership and his colleagues at the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan have demonstrated that practicing thanks can be both habit-generating and can have transformative effects for you and those you lead and engage with.

Kim is an evangelist for the thanks journal – a practice that is utterly simple and achievable for the most weary among us:  At the end of each day, write just three things you’re thankful for.  I’m a raving convert, finishing as good a year as I’ve ever had, and giving great credit to the thanks journal for that result.

I’d encourage you to start or restart a thanks journal, and consider giving not just thanks but a thanks journal to someone you care about.  Thanksgiving’ s not just many folks’ favorite holiday but it’s also essential to

Lead with your best self!


  • The first and most thanks-giving people to arrive here, after crossing the Atlantic in 1620, were the Pilgrims.

    In the Spring of 1621, the newly arrived Pilgrims were not doing well in the New World. They were living in dirt-covered shelters, there was a shortage of food and nearly half of them had died during the winter. However, they had the fortune to connect with two English-speaking American Indians, named Samoset and Squanto, who had been hunting in the area that we now know to be Plymouth, MA.

    By the time fall arrived, things were going much better for the Pilgrims, thanks to the help they had received from the American Indians. The corn they planted had grown well. There was enough food to last the winter. They were living comfortably in their Indian-style wigwams and had also managed to build one European-style building out of squared logs. This was their church. They were now in better health, and they knew more about surviving in this new land. The Pilgrims decided to have a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune. They had observed thanksgiving feasts in November as religious obligations in England for many years before coming to the New World.

    Now, as U.S. families gather to celebrate this year’s holiday, some will remember the positive story of the first Thanksgiving Day.

  • Dan,

    Thanks and Thank you has been an acknowledgement that was taught to me since I was at least four years old. It was something my parents and siblings constantly repeated and instilled in me relentlessly. To give thanks for what we have and to thank those that did something for you whether at work, home or play. It is a powerful phrase that pays dividends whether in the short run or later down the road of life that we travel. It certainly doesn’t require a lot of energy and I thank those that I lead for their contributions in the work place which makes my work environment so enjoyable and enables me to achieve the mission of the agency I work in.

    JMG contributed to that satisfaction enormously. Happy Thanksgiving to you, the Governor and all of your family.

  • Dan, wish your Mom, Aunts & Uncles, your brothers &sisters and cousins and Jen,the girls and Jack a happy thanksgiving and have one yourself! Thanks for the weekly inspiration.
    Just a thought from way out in left field. Russian television news must be giving thanks for the OWS demos as they’ve covered them for 2 months highlighting police brutality and the supression of free speach in the “land of democracy”. As for the pepper spraying cops atUC-Davis they’d be charged with assault here. Some leadership from the chancellor who sent them in!!
    Enjoyed the GOP candidates foreign policy debate (best comedy for a long time), what a bunch of ignorant nitwits. God help you if any of them are elected.
    God bless the little people, it’s time there was some mature leadership in Congress and the white house.Perhaps a kick up their collective butts is called for.
    Enjoy the 24th my”colonial” cousin! Love, Phil

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