I’ve had businesses who were just interested in the benefits of having a grateful minded workforce (and there are many), the science behind gratitude, the psychology of how it works, the various frameworks for understanding how it operates within individuals and within social settings and the various techniques you can use to develop a grateful frame of mind. And they were interested in teaching their people all this so they could have a more positive, engaged, productive culture.

At first thought it sounds good. But one important ingredient is missing. In fact, the businesses I'm talking about weren’t even interested in this one absolutely critical element, which is the secret sauce of gratitude.

While I may be giving away the store with the answer, here goes… the secret ingredient… their people need to actually experience gratitude. If you don’t experience gratitude, then all the intellectual knowledge in the world won’t do you any good whatsoever. Experiencing gratitude provides the context for the facts about gratitude. Let’s explain using laughter as an example.

Gratitude and laughter share a common element.

If you consider laughter… you know what laughing is. You know how to laugh. You know that when something is funny you laugh and when it’s really funny, you laugh a lot more. Laughing just happens without any awareness of the psychological mechanism involved in humour.

But here’s the thing, if I tell you to laugh and expect you’re going laugh… truly laugh…. I’m fooling myself. For you to genuinely laugh, you need to experience something humourous and that generates the laugh.

Can you see how the same is true for gratitude? I can’t just tell you to be grateful and expect you’ll be grateful… even if you have all that gratitude knowledge. Gratitude is not an intellectual exercise.

While the science and benefits of gratitude are critical for understanding the importance of gratitude at work, this teaching is quite separate from what you need to do to bring about a positive, engaged, productive culture.

People learn about gratitude by experiencing gratitude. For organizations wanting to eliminate complacency and entitlement and bring gratitude into their culture, information is not what creates change. Transformations happen when people experience gratitude.

If you are serious about building the type of culture that attracts and retains great employees, then give your people positive learning experiences where they get to reflect on what they are grateful for and then have the time to make sense of it. You know… the same way they would experience a comedian… comedians don’t tell us the structure of a joke and how it works… they let us experience the joke. So let them experience gratitude because…

…when it comes to gratitude, your people need more.