For this post, we took the question below—in the spirit of Thanksgiving (in the States) and the holiday season (around the world)—and reached out to multiple serial entrepreneurs and investors to offer you, the reader, a diversity of perspectives.

How do you bake gratitude into your company’s culture and policies?


David Howitt, founder and CEO of Meriwether Group, serial entrepreneur and author wrote…

…Meriwether Group (MWG) always takes the time to extend a group thank you. We usually sit down with each other to share a meal at least once a month. It gives us all a chance to check in with each other and say thank you. Just recently, the entire team took a moment in the busy, short holiday week to share our Meriwether Group Thanksgiving Lunch. I took time to share my gratitude for our team of dynamic, caring and encouraging people.

We consider all of our clients (past and present) as partners, friends and part of our family. Tweet This Quote

MWG considers all of our clients (past and present) as partners, friends and part of our family. We share all of our community’s achievements, milestones and noteworthy events on our social media outlets. Our heart-centered methodology is the only way we know how to approach business. Our friend and mentor Deepak Chopra says, “Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.”


Mike Quinn, CEO of Zoona and Skoll Scholar for Social Entrepreneurship wrote…

…We use a tool called TinyPulse that asks a unique question every two weeks to help us gauge our employee engagement temperature. For example, a recent question was, “What’s one thing we’re doing that we should stop doing to be more successful?”

As part of the survey, there is a section called ‘cheers for peers’ where employees can send each other a unique cheers to appreciate something about another employee. They can choose to be identified or remain anonymous. Below is an example of what that looks like.

An example of a submission from Zoona's TinyPulse tool.

An example of a submission from Zoona’s TinyPulse tool.


Gayle Karen Young, the former Chief Talent and Culture Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation (i.e. creators of Wikipedia), culture-builder and adventurer wrote…

…Gratitude is a practice, a habit, and a way of inhabiting your life, your world and your days. It is, for me, a form of seeing. Gratitude is most of all the practice of fullness for me—it’s seeing a wholeness embedded into the fabric of life. It encompasses loneliness and loss, terror and fear. It does not deny life’s hardships, but brings them into fullness. To not be grateful is to not see that we are gifted with bodies that breathe to experience this life.

These two poems exemplify gratitude for me: “Everything is Waiting for You” by David Whyte and “This Poem Should be a Circle” by Mark Nepo.

Gratitude is a practice, a habit, and a way of inhabiting your life, your world and your days. Tweet This Quote


Seth Levine, managing director of Foundry Group, serial tech investor, advisor and outdoorsman wrote…

…At Foundry Group, we’re super active in two organizations we co-founded. One is the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO)—a network of Colorado entrepreneurs whose companies share a common commitment to pledge a portion of founding equity or a portion of annual profits to the community. The second is Pledge 1%, which is a group of organizations committed to encouraging the early stage companies we work with to make giving back to their causes or nonprofits of choice a major priority.


Joy Anderson, founder and president of Criterion Institute, consultant and teacher wrote…

We want people in our lives to feel welcome, needed, and invited, and we hold space for their opinions, thoughts and ideas. Tweet This Quote

…Every week at Criterion Institute, our small (but mighty) distributed team connects over the phone for a 10-minute check-in. During these calls, we appreciate one another and discuss how Criterion’s guiding principles of grace, hospitality, and invitation show up in our lives and in the world. It doesn’t matter if what each team member shares is from their personal life or from doing Criterion’s work; it also doesn’t matter which principle each team member chooses to focus on. The common thread is the gratitude of accepting grace—allowing people in our lives to feel welcome, needed, and invited, as well as holding space for their opinions, thoughts and ideas. We may not see each other every day, but this weekly exercise is especially grounding for our team.


Ned Tozun, co-founder and CEO of d.light and Forbes Top 30 Social Entrepreneur wrote…

We recognize the impact we are creating wouldn’t happen without the passion, hard work and dedication of our partners on the ground. Tweet This Quote

…This year, we started holding annual awards ceremonies to recognize our top partners and distributors. We recognize that the impact we are creating wouldn’t happen without the passion, hard work and dedication of our amazing partners on the ground, and it’s a great way to show them our appreciation.

This year, we did one event in Nairobi, one in Hyderabad (for South India) and one in Lucknow (for North India). We’ll continue them in future years as well.

Collage of d.light's award ceremonies in India and Kenya.

Collage of d.light’s award ceremonies in India and Kenya.


Diana Ayton-Shenker, founder and CEO of Global Momenta, entrepreneur, professor and advisor and speaker wrote…

…Gratitude elevates our work by recognizing the abundance of opportunity for social impact, and it grounds us with appreciation for the practical realities of what it takes to make a difference in our world. When we pause and say, “I’m grateful to serve, to innovate, to venture, to generate value, to envision new solutions” for positive social change, we place our work in the context of the collective; we become part of something bigger than ourselves and acknowledge the privilege of aligning values with action.

Practicing gratitude carries us through challenges with humility and perspective. Tweet This Quote

We also recognize what a gift and a joy it is to do this work. This is especially helpful when the challenging grind of start-up stress takes its toll. Being grateful even for the setbacks, frustrations, and obstacles helps us reveal lessons learned. Practicing gratitude carries us through these challenges with humility and perspective, reminding us that we didn’t sign up to make the world a better place because it’s easy. We are here to do this work because we are fortunate to do what we love. And for this, we give thanks.


Pascal Finette, managing director of Singularity University Labs, serial tech entrepreneur, coach and speaker wrote…

…At Singularity University, we have established a culture of generous and general gratitude into all our interactions—we keep thanking folks whenever we interact with them. As Mark Twain once said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”


Daniel Epstein, founder and CEO of Unreasonable Group, serial entrepreneur, speaker, adventurer and dog-lover wrote…

…At Unreasonable Group, we take saying “thank you” seriously. In fact, this goes back to the roots of Unreasonable. In the first year of the Unreasonable Institute, the largest line item expense on the budget was shipping life-sized stuffed penguins out to partners, mentors and supporters as a way to say “thank you.” Additionally, to thank everyone who made the Girl Effect Accelerator a reality, we spent a few thousand dollars and shipped out over 80 stuffed penguins. Don’t believe me? See the image.

An army of penguins ready to be mailed to Girl Effect Accelerator supporters

An army of penguins ready to be mailed to Girl Effect Accelerator supporters.

But beyond thanking people when they likely expect it, we bake gratitude into everyday operations. In our weekly team meetings on Mondays, everyone goes around and shares their “points of gratitude” from the week prior. On Fridays, our team takes a full hour to write thank you notes and mail them to people we want to thank from the week. This month, I’ve made it my daily habit to ensure the first email I send every day is a note of gratitude. In short, there’s a lot for us to be grateful for, and we’ve done our best to bake that gratitude into our policies and posture as a company.

Burning Question

How do you and your company bake gratitude into your work? Please share in the comments below!

About the author

Brittany Lane

Brittany Lane

Brittany is the editor of UNREASONABLE.is for Unreasonable Group. She believes lasting social and environmental change happens at the intersection of entrepreneurship and empathy.

  • Chris

    From
    reading this article I believe what I have already known has only been
    reinforced. Gratitude is an important component of doing business successfully.
    If one does not appreciate the personnel that make up the organization or the
    customer base that keeps the organization alive, then the long term success of
    said organization will be nonexistent. By constantly showing that the impact
    that one person or a multitude of people have on you, connecting with them will
    be much easier and much more genuine. Another big factor when trying to
    incorporate gratitude into your business. Being genuine and humble and really
    believing in what you are doing and truly taking the time to observe who is
    keeping you afloat, the impact that you will make on your surroundings is far
    greater. Your personnel and customer base will be able to notice when you are
    not being genuine whether it be right off the bat or down the road through your
    business practices. And if this is observed and caught in time, that base will
    be able to expose you further hindering the continued success of the
    organization. So gratitude and the act of being genuine should go hand in hand.
    When you incorporate these aspects into your business’ recipe, you will see the
    positive impact that is has on the operations of your organization and the long
    term success that you will be able to invest in. Without this component being
    imbedded into your business plan, then you will see the opposite of success and
    will have to rethink your way of management and operations in order to even
    have a shot at reviving your business. Plus, with gratitude and the act of
    being genuine in place, the possibility for doing good besides just the success
    of the organization will be possible. The impact that you will have on society
    will be contagious and the effect that will observed across the industry will
    be much more influential to society.

  • Kaitlin J

    A lovely post with a valuable reminder about the importance of shaping a culture of gratitude within mission-driven work. I particularly appreciate the leaders who infuse staff meetings, monthly dinners, etc with opportunities to express gratitude. Actively making time for that type of reflection is so important.

    Last week the NYT published an article about how choosing to be grateful brings people more happiness. And I think we can safely conclude that happier employees and entrepreneurs means more success in work. Check out the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html

    Also nice to see my professor Diana in this article!

  • carlie

    This is a great article to read
    about the implementation of gratitude into a business culture. Even before
    reading this post, I always found that it is important to show gratitude for
    one another; whether it is your coworkers, parents, spouse, and even children,
    everyone deserves to hear they are appreciated. As I read from another
    discussion post, it has been proven that gratitude improves people’s happiness.
    I could not agree more to that statement. There is not one person in this world
    that would not value hearing someone tell them they are grateful for what they
    do.

    In the
    business world, I think it is so important to show gratitude towards one
    another, and I think it is even more significant if it comes from management
    down to employees. When someone knows that their hard work and dedication to
    something isn’t being ignored, they will be more apt to work harder for their
    peers. I also think its imperative to show gratitude because that shows people
    that you are thankful. Thankful for the opportunities you are given, good or
    bad. Expressing gratitude also shows transparency and genuine personality of the
    company. I found it interesting that Unreasonable found importance in showing
    gratitude in more ways than just verbal affirmation. They took the time to send
    life size penguins to people they were thankful for. The saying, actions speak
    louder than words really drive home in the gratitude execution.

  • Azra Samiee

    It is so critical for those working within mission driven organizations that are typically working for social good and community improvement to feel acknowledged for the work they are doing. Often the work these individuals are committed to is thankless or it often thy projects they are working on are long and may not yield tangible results of their hardwork immediately. This is why check-ins, expressions and acknowledgment of gratitude are important. There is often a stigma in work environments that people shouldn’t expect praise or gratitude because it is the work they chose and the work they are supposed to be passionate, that people should be driven by their own ambition- but that is nonsense. Most people ike to feel apart of something greater and something that others acknowledge as important. This article is so important because being gracious, being affirming, acknowledging the work and dedication of those working for change will give more value to the work being done, create more enthusiasm, eagerness, etc.

  • Jasmine Miller

    This article is amazing. It is so necessary to practice gratitude in the workplace not only for the spreading of positive energy but to allow those who work so hard to feel appreciated. Doing good in the world is not an easy task and sometimes we as humans can get to a point where we almost feel burned out. I know whenever someone lets me know that they appreciate me or that my voice, actions and presence matterws; I get a gust of energy to keep me going. I love the fact that this article mentioned incorporating mentioning moments of gratitude from the previous week as well as check ins. This is a great way to establish a positive work culture and the monthly lunches together is great. Definatley goin to borrow some of these for the office! 🙂

  • Diana Ayton-Shenker

    Nice job, Brittany! Love Gayle Karen Young’s take on “Gratitude as a Practice”. I’ve already been passing along these wonderful poems to spread the poetry love. Especially appreciate Mark Nepo’s essential question: “what bridge are we?”

    As a proud recipient of the 1st batch of Unreasonable Penguins, I can say this expression of gratitude is one of the best thank you notes I’ve ever received. After my kids finished arguing over where the Penguin would sleep, we aptly named him “Domino”…black and white with great potential to catalyze a “domino effect” for social good. Thanks for sharing, Daniel, and much gratitude for inspiration from other contributors to this piece.

  • elynmac

    Your post is so important. Actually – it is good for more settings besides business culture. Good for most organizations. You give lots of good suggestions here. Thank you!