2014

Go Grateful

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Like many industries, the global coffee industry is faced with challenges of an inventively limitless number and variety. Climate change feels beyond the industry’s control. Irrigation and artificial feeding of the trees can in some cases be used to deal with this, but in many countries this is just not possible. Crop-related diseases are another challenge – curious sounding names like Roya fungus, leaf rust and coffee berry borer make us quake. Fungicides can help, but if you are an organic producer, you just don’t have this option. Urbanization is yet another challenge, with excellent coffee growing land being sold off as farmers are given choices and chances to get substantial payouts they never had access to before. Shifting consumer preferences, with a limitless number of options, are yet another constant trial.

Most of these factors seem out of the control of coffee-associated companies, which are vulnerable to losing business, customers, crops, land, employees and even their reputations. Finding effective strategies for dealing with the sense of defenselessness, exposure and helplessness that is emerging can be daunting. So what can coffee companies do when they experience this vulnerability in so many arenas? The first step is to recognize that many things are truly out of their control, although there are always some positive actions they can take. But there is one tactic that is totally within each and every coffee industry member’s control and capability: They can proactively and successfully become conscious of, and express their gratitude in, every aspect of their work and their lives. It has been proven through many different scientific studies and case examples that the practice of gratitude creates extremely positive results and actions.

Let’s start with the example of employee retention – there are so many different options for today’s workforce, and so little loyalty. Whether it is an awesome barista or a creative, resourceful, innovative corporate executive you want to keep, there is little faithfulness in today’s workplace with a major exception: loyalty and engagement are the result when people feel we value, appreciate and are grateful toward them!

So what are the real benefits of acknowledgment and gratitude in the workplace? The Gallup Organization reports that a whopping 52 percent of people are not engaged in their work. They are the “sleepwalkers,” those just putting in time. I say they can and will be engaged – and stay engaged – if leaders first become conscious of their own gratitude and appreciation toward their people, and then express it to them. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said in an employee retention study that the number one reason people leave is lack of appreciation. Gratitude will not only keep them there, but make them perform to their maximum levels.

This form of leadership is what our employees, our vendors, our suppliers, and yes – certainly our customers – truly want. We hear so many stories about good people who leave good jobs at good companies because they DON’T feel appreciated. How can the coffee industry prevent the loss of these contributors? Expressing gratitude, and establishing cultures of appreciation are such simple, cheap and always available solutions that not only make “sense” – they makes dollars! Lots of them! The five C’s of Acknowledgment (Consciousness, Choice, Courage, Communications and Commitment) are a great way to start practicing this.

Keeping customers and gaining new ones is a priority in this industry. It is a given that customers love to be treated with respect and caring, and with gratitude for bringing their business to our particular coffee shop, and for buying our own brand of coffee. They like knowing that we are caring for others, too! So when Starbucks, for example, takes this kind of action: “In honor of World AIDS Day, Starbucks will make a 10 cent (U.S.) donation for every handcrafted beverage sold in participating U.S. and Canada stores,” or Dutch brothers honors cofounder Dane Boersma, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, by having all locations annually donate one designated day’s proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, this tugs at their customers’ heartstrings. They feel proud and good about purchasing from a company that cares about others, not just about profits. Loyalty cards are another way to show gratitude to customers and support customer retention. There are many choices available to consumers, so we need to express gratitude toward those who choose what we offer!

And without a doubt, gratitude is contagious! People respond in kind when they feel appreciated, or receive some special customer service. They tell great stories about the service they receive. They tweet about it, they go on your blogs and comment. They come back and bring their associates.

Moreover, don’t forget the emotional and health benefits of gratitude and acknowledgment – both for the giver and the receiver! Dr. Michael McCullough reported in a study that focused on the effects of gratitude on physical and emotional well-being that people who practiced gratitude rated their lives more favorably and experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness, such as stress and fatigue. When we feel a sense of well-being, it is much easier to appreciate and express gratitude toward others.

It is clear that there are many challenges that may seem out of control at times for the coffee industry. So when you as a proud but worried member of it are feeling vulnerable, Go Grateful! It’s a surefire way to get unpredictably positive results, for you and your recipients!

Please visit: www.GratefulLeadership.com

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