Kind People Show Their #Hatitude

It all started with an idea to start showing more gratitude and a goofy hat — a green and white snapback cap that was a family gift collecting dust in my closet.

For the story to make sense, you need to know that we get the entire company together twice a year.

So, the Aha! team was getting together for a four-day team event in Lake Tahoe, where many of us were meeting in person for the first time (because we are a remote team). And I wanted a way to show gratitude and highlight each person’s great work while we were all together. It was also important for me that the person would feel special when it was their time to receive thanks, so I wanted them to wear something when it was their turn.

And that is where the hat comes in.

I had set aside a sparkly new metallic wizard hat at home to bring on the trip. It was shiny and perfect. But when I went to pack it, it was too late. The kids had discovered it and crushed it. Darn destructive boys. I did a bit of finger-pointing and then panicked. I starting searching in my closet for a replacement — and there it was, a boxy, wide-brimmed, 2014 Tour de California hat with a bear riding a bike.

The ugly hat would have to do.

The first night in Tahoe at the Sunday team dinner, I brought out the hat and explained the plan. Every team member would take a turn wearing the hat, and we would show our gratitude for that person. Some people laughed nervously about being in the spotlight while wearing a goofy hat in the middle of a nice restaurant [I think a bunch of other people enjoyed the spotlight].

Anyway, after the first person put on the hat, something unexpected happened.

One of our engineers yelled out, “Hey, that’s not a hat of gratitude. That’s hatitude.” It was an instant laugh — and that is how Aha! #hatitude came to be.

Every evening, the hat came along to our restaurant of choice. When it was time for #hatitude, I witnessed honest expressions of thankfulness for every person, for their contributions to the team and hard work. After our event was over, #hatitude took on a life of its own. Now, showing #hatitude is a daily event — and part of our culture. It even has its own channel in our group messaging tool.

In a rapidly growing company, it is easy to forget about showing appreciation for others. Because achievement is everywhere and its own intrinsic reward. But kindness still matters. I have witnessed the good that can come when we simply stop, think about each person, and share our gratitude. It strengthens our connections and builds a sense of community.

In a company that demands big effort and phenomenal work, being grateful gives us perspective and makes us better people and a richer organization.

There is much that I have learned from our own form of gratitude, but you do not need a hat to start practicing thankfulness right now. Here is how you can begin and create your own culture of thanks:

Be the first
Want your team to start showing #hatitude? You can guess where it needs to start. You cannot expect others to show gratitude if you do not demonstrate the gratitude you have for others. Even if it feels awkward and uncomfortable to publicly show your thanks, do it anyway. Once you model this behavior, others will catch on.

Be intentional
The next time you think, “Suzanne did a great job helping that customer,” do not keep it to yourself. Translate that thought into action: “I need to show her some #hatitude.” Then throw the praise as soon as possible — before the moment passes you by and the opportunity is lost.

Be genuine
The point of #hatitude is not to show empty praise. That does not help to build meaningful relationships, and it is obvious when someone is not expressing their genuine feelings. Express your gratitude naturally and spontaneously, when you feel it.

Be specific
Everyone likes to hear praise, but it is even better when the praise is detailed. Expressions of gratitude carry much more weight when they are tied to a specific action — and it makes others feel like their specific actions and attention to detail matter.

We can all think of people we appreciate. But how often do we take the time to tell them?

Practicing #hatitude may seem like a small gesture, but it has lasting impact. One show of kindness is all it takes to start building this culture in your workplace.

I am looking forward to the team getting together again in just a few weeks. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year, made more precious through the sharing of #hatitude. When we meet again, you can be sure that the goofy green and white hat will be coming along.

How do you show #hatitude?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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