More than most holidays, Thanksgiving invites a time of reflection and gratitude. In many homes and communities, it is a time for counting blessings, experiencing and sharing an appreciation for the gifts in our lives, both large and small. As we prepared to spend time around this year’s Thanksgiving table, I reflected on all that we had to appreciate, and as I said my own personal prayers of thankfulness, I also shared a prayer for the many wonderful client organizations we have had the pleasure of serving this year.
One particular group sprung to mind and I offered a special hope for healing for this team. Like many of our clients, this team is in the throes of a very difficult transition. After more than forty years at the helm of the organization, Randall, their founder has turned over the reins to a new leader and is transitioning ownership of the organization to his employees. Getting to this point has been a long and difficult process, which has left a great deal of hurt and mistrust in its wake.
The team members are tired of the constant battling it required to move the deal to close, yet they don’t really know what ownership means for them. They are overwhelmed by having to take on the enormous debt required to make this transition and haven’t yet been able to see any personal benefit from this transaction. The team has a low level of confidence in their ability to tackle the future on their own, yet they long to be untethered.
For his part, Randall is in a similar place. This organization has been his home for more than half his life. It was built on the vision and foundation he created in his mid-career. After years of giving away more than 90 percent of the profits to employee rewards and incentives, he had to recapitalize the business to shore up reserves and reinvest for growth, only to face a backlash of negative sentiment from the team. In the end, he received much less than he believed was the true value of the business in his financial exit package. And, not surprisingly, he is struggling to visualize a life apart from the organization he so carefully built.
Many members of this very closely knit team, Randall included, have a sense of betrayal and are feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Where there had been genuine and deep regard for one another, true support and caring, there is anger, dissatisfaction, confusion, and jealousy. The team is bewildered and fearful about what will happen next.
After many conversations with Randall and all the members of his team, here’s what emerged. They all care deeply about each other and their clients. In fact, it is this extraordinary level of caring and empathy which makes them great at what they do, and vulnerable during this highly emotional time in their evolution. They are proud of their individual and collective accomplishments, however, their personal pride and recent hurts hinder their ability to share credit for their hard-won successes and acknowledgment for other’s efforts. Most striking to us was how much they all longed for gratitude and appreciation.
Each member of the team shared stories of the personal and professional gifts they had accumulated from being members of this very special organization. Most of them told of very specific situations, such as being offered a place to live while struggling through a divorce, or provided company-paid training to complete required certifications for promotion, or the incredible lengths a team member went to help a client, and the offer to provide out-of-state transportation and moral support for a desperately ill co-worker. But, in the end, what they all desired most was to be thanked. To be offered genuine, humble appreciation for having given what they could, when they could. Heartbreakingly, in some circumstances, these sentiments of love, affection, and gratefulness were being consciously withheld. The ensuing damage was apparent and resulted in a tremendous negative impact on the level of team member commitment, customer service, productivity and growth for the organization.
In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch said, “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” This year, my Thanksgiving prayer was the hope that we could all find the power to share our love and appreciation, find forgiveness and act as catalysts for greater grace.
Thank You, from the team at 29BISON. We offer our deepest appreciation for your partnership, trust, and collaboration and wish each of you the gift of gratitude.